Moody’s upgrades Greek credit rating by 2 notches to B3

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Moody’s ratings agency upgraded Greece’s credit rating by two notches late Wednesday to B3, saying the country is set to return to market-based funding following the conclusion of its current bailout program in the summer.

Despite the upgrade, which follows similar moves by ratings agencies Fitch and Standard and Poor’s, Greece’s credit rating remains well within junk, or non-investment grade, territory.

Moody’s, however, noted that the risk of another Greek default or restructuring on debt owed to private investors has “materially declined.”

The agency said Greece’s ratings outlook remains positive, and a further upgrade could follow if the country’s reform program leads to more positive than expected results, with sustained economic growth and a more rapid fall in the country’s debt to GDP ratio.

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010, when it racked up a large budget deficit and lost investor trust — and with it access to bond markets. In exchange for the rescue loans, successive governments implemented harsh austerity measures, slashing spending and incomes, hiking taxes and implementing sweeping market reforms.

The country’s third bailout, by its European Union partners, ends in August. After that the country will have to rely on bond sales to finance itself.

Earlier Wednesday, Greece’s powerful Communist Party vowed to step up protests against online auctions of homes with defaulted mortgages, putting more pressure on the government which has promised bailout creditors it will speed up the auction process.

More than 2,000 protesters from the party’s labor union took part in a rally in central Athens against the auctions which restarted Wednesday, following months of delays.

Until now, protests against the auctions at court houses and the offices of notary publics have been led by smaller left-wing groups.

European institutions participating in Greece’s bailout are pressing Athens to ensure that auctions proceed.

This week, due to the postponed auctions, creditors delayed paying out a rescue loan installment to the government worth 5.7 billion euros ($7.1 billion).

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