WASHINGTON — The decision by Standard & Poor's to strip France of its prized AAA credit rating and downgrade eight other European countries slammed a continent struggling with a debt crisis and an economic slowdown.
But beleaguered Europeans can take some comfort: It could have been worse.
Investors had plenty of time to brace for the bad news. S&P put 15 countries, including Germany and France, on notice last month that they faced potential downgrades. The advance notice means the downgrades likely won't panic financial markets and drive up European governments' borrowing costs much higher than they already are.
Stocks fell Friday as downgrade rumors reached the trading floors of Europe and the United States. But the declines were nothing like the wrenching swings of last summer and fall.