After 14 years..

After 14 years..
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Indonesia won its second credit rating upgrade in five weeks as Moody's Investors Service returned the country to investment level for the first time since the Asian financial crisis.

The foreign- and local-currency rating was increased to Baa3 from Ba1, Moody's said in a statement yesterday. The outlook is stable. The upgrade brings Southeast Asia's largest economy to the lowest investment grade, the same level as India, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Emerging-market economies from Brazil to Turkey and the Philippines are winning rating upgrades as governments take steps to contain budget deficits and bolster growth, even as Europe's debt crisis prompted Standard & Poor's to cut the credit ratings of nine members of the 17-nation euro area on January 13. Yesterday's decision may aid President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's efforts to spur expansion by boosting investment.

"It's a positive development for the economy and backs the broader reform agenda rolled out by the government," said Radhika Rao, an economist at Forecast Pte in Singapore. "This should also benefit rupiah-denominated assets and attract more investments into the country, thereby helping with the longer- term infrastructure-related demands."

Currency Recovers

The nation's currency erased losses after the upgrade, gaining 0.2 percent to 9,069 per dollar as of 4:48 p.m. in Jakarta yesterday, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. It was down 1 percent shortly before the announcement.

Bonds extended gains, with the yield on the 4.875 percent dollar notes due 2021 falling six basis points, or 0.06 percentage point, to 3.98 percent, while that on the 5.25 percent securities maturing in 2042 declined seven basis points to 5.32 percent as of 5:42 p.m. in Singapore yesterday, according to prices from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

Fitch Ratings brought Indonesia back to investment grade last month after 14 years of junk ratings. It raised the nation's long-term foreign and local currency rating to BBB- with a stable outlook on December 15, citing "strong and resilient" growth and declining public-debt ratios.

S&P, which still rates Indonesia one level below investment grade, will probably follow, said David Sumual, an economist at PT Bank Central Asia in Jakarta.

Resilient to Shocks

"Indonesia's cyclical resilience to large external shocks points to sustainably high trend growth over the medium term," Moody's said. "A more favourable assessment of Indonesia's economic strength is underpinned by gains in investment spending, improved prospects for infrastructure development following key policy reforms, and a well-managed financial system."

Indonesia, which needed a bailout from the International Monetary Fund during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, avoided following the world's largest economies and neighbouring countries into a recession during the 2009 global slump.

The country's local-currency bonds have returned 28 percent in the past year, the best performance among 10 Asian debt markets tracked by HSBC Holdings Plc. Its dollar bonds gained 9 percent in the same period, the second-best among 11 markets in the region.

"This upgrade will confirm how good Indonesia's investment climate is, which will make foreign direct investment flow stronger," said Felix Sindhunata, an economist at PT Henan Putihrai in Jakarta. Still, a "rating upgrade will be nothing if the government has no action" to improve infrastructure and stem corruption.

Land Bill Passed

Yudhoyono's government forecasts a 6.5 percent expansion in 2011, and the president targets the ratio of debt to gross domestic product to drop to 24 percent in 2012 from 25 percent in 2011.

The nation's parliament approved a land-acquisition bill on December 16 that will allow Yudhoyono's administration to accelerate road, port and airport projects. The government is also setting up a new financial market regulator that is due to start operating in January 2013, supervising capital markets, insurers, pension funds and other non-bank institutions.

Indonesia may become a safe haven country as Moody's upgrade helps attract investors to Indonesian stocks, bonds and boost foreign direct investment, Bank Indonesia deputy Governor Hartadi Sarwono said yesterday.

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