In a major goof-up, US-based ratings agency Standard & Poor's accidentally disseminated a message to subscribers earlier on Friday that it has downgraded its top-notch credit rating of France from 'AAA', but has since issued a clarification and is investigating the cause of the error.
"As a result of a technical error, a message was automatically disseminated today to some subscribers of S&P's Global Credit Portal suggesting that France's credit rating had been changed," S&P said in a statement on Friday.
"We are investigating the cause of the error," it said, adding that the ratings of France remains at 'AAA/A-1+' with a stable outlook and the incident is not related to any ratings surveillance activity.
The erroneous communication which was received by some S&P subscribers created panic in France, which as Chair of the G-20 grouping has been trying to resolve the complex sovereign debt problems of the euro zone nations.
According to reports, French finance minister Francois Baroin described the episode as "quite shocking" and has asked regulators to investigate the cause.
"We will not allow any negative message to pass" to the market, he said, adding, "We have a strategy, a commitment in terms of deficit reduction."
The European stock markets are already going through an uncertain phase as the EU bloc is struggling to put in place an acceptable solution to resolve the Greece sovereign debt crisis.