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Fitch lifts Bulgaria outlook amid improved external metrics

Fitch Ratings on June 2 revised Bulgaria's outlook to positive from stable while affirming the sovereign's long-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at BBB-.

Bulgaria's improved external metrics and its current account surplus of 4.2% of GDP, compared to the median 1.5% deficit of its peers, mainly contributed to the outlook revision.

A prolonged and steady deleveraging and positive current account trends helped the country turn into a small net external creditor of 1.6% of GDP in 2016, compared to the 0.5% of GDP median net debtor position of its peers and a peak net debtor position of 45.2% in 2009.

In addition, the rating agency noted that Bulgaria's public finances compare favorably with peers. The rating agency projects a fiscal deficit of 0.6% of GDP in 2017, well below the projected median of 2.4% of GDP. In addition, Fitch expects public debt to decline to 26.7% of GDP in 2017, compared to rated peers' figure of 40.9% of GDP, due to the repayment of a pre-financed bond.

Fitch forecasts Bulgaria's economy to grow 3% in 2017-18, in line with the five-year median growth of its BBB peers, after real GDP accelerated to 3.5% in 2015-16. Meanwhile, Fitch affirmed the country ceiling at BBB+ and the short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at F3.

S&P Global Ratings also revised its outlook on Bulgaria to positive from stable on June 2, citing the country's continued economic recovery.

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.