Portugal keeps bond rating that ensures continuing ECB help

LISBON, Portugal – Ratings agency DBRS has kept its investment grade classification for Portuguese bonds, ensuring the debt-heavy eurozone country remains eligible for vital help from the European Central Bank’s stimulus program.

Toronto-based DBRS was the only major agency that did not cut Portuguese bonds to junk status following a 78 billion-euro ($85 billion) bailout in 2011 that spared the country from bankruptcy. A eurozone country needs at least one investment-grade rating to qualify for ECB stimulus.

DBRS said it is maintaining Portugal at BBB (low) — its lowest investment grade.

Though widely expected, Friday’s decision by DBRS was keenly awaited by the Portuguese government and international investors.

The government is finding it hard to generate economic growth, and markets are concerned Portugal’s problems could have a knock-on effect across the currency bloc.