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Fitch revises Bulgaria outlook on improved external finance metrics

Fitch Ratings on March 22 revised the outlook on Bulgaria's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating to positive from stable while affirming the BBB rating, citing an improvement in the country's external finance metrics.

Bulgaria's external finance metrics continue to outperform the majority of its BBB peers, the rating agency said.

The current account surplus reached an estimated 4.5% of GDP in 2018, beating prior projections due to an increasing services surplus. Bulgaria's net asset position improved to about 17% of GDP at end-2018, up 40 percentage points from 2013, Fitch said.

External assets are expected to grow, albeit at a more gradual pace, in 2019-2020.

The budget surplus grew to an estimated 1.9% of GDP in 2018 on an accrual basis, the best level on record in 20 years.

Fitch expects Bulgaria's GDP growth to average 3.3% in 2019-2020, owing to a rise in net exports. It added that Bulgaria "appears less vulnerable" than peers to external downside risks as most of its exports are for final consumption demand.

The rating agency could upgrade Bulgaria's ratings if it sees continued improvement in external and fiscal balance sheets, progress in the country's bid to join the eurozone and other favorable growth prospects.

Fitch, however, could consider a negative rating action in case of external imbalances and a sharp rise in public debt.