According to the Financial Times:
“This development reflects the market’s current obsession with sovereign risk. The same thing applies in the bond markets where investors are no longer willing to regard the debt of an increasing number of developed world governments as risk free. These countries have taken on huge private sector debts in their efforts to reverse the economic downturn and bail out the financial sector.
“John Wraith, fixed income strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, says: ‘The concept of what is risk free has certainly changed in as much as government bond yields of the UK and other countries are higher than some corporates.’”
In one example, the article points out that the cost to insure UK debt has risen to double that of certain leading companies… so much for being a “risk-free” nation.
Clearly these European countries have much smaller economies than the US, and they also don’t benefit from printing the world’s reserve currency. However, by pursuing similar hazardous strategies, such as racking up mountains of public debt, the US is on track to face similar consequences.
To get a better sense of the details and potential consequences, read the Financial Times’ coverage of the changing perspective on “risk-free” nations.