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Sovereign creditworthiness has risen modestly, and there’s much to be modest about.

Consider the economy. Stanley Fischer, the vice chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, noted in a recent speech in Stockholm that economic activity around the world has been “disappointing.” As he pointed out, again and again economists and policymakers “have had to explain from midyear on why the global growth rate has been lower than predicted as little as two quarters back.”

That pattern seems likely to persist, many analysts say. “I can’t look anywhere and say they are a shoo-in for growth and prosperity,” says Jon Alterman, senior vice president and Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It feels like countries are poised for growth, but I don’t see anybody for whom it’s guaranteed or strongly likely.”

That tepid outlook is reflected in our latest Country Credit survey, Institutional Investor’s exclusive semiannual ranking of global creditworthiness. The average sovereign credit rating edges up to 44.8 on a scale of zero to 100, according to economists and risk analysts surveyed, up 0.6 points over the past six months and up just 0.2 points from a year earlier.

The U.S. economy is “finally gaining traction,” says David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and former U.S. Treasury official. But, he adds, “things have only improved a little bit in Europe and Japan, and the developing world is a mixed bag. You can see why survey participants are not excited.”

Indeed, just as the U.S. growth rate seemed to be accelerating smartly this summer, news came from Europe that Germany’s growth had stalled in the second quarter and Italy had slipped back into recession. China, which has increasingly played the role of global locomotive in recent years, “has reached the middle-income country stage, where you can’t grow at 10 percent — no one has ever done that,” says Dollar. So 7 percent is the new 10 percent.

The economy isn’t the only drag on ratings. Geopolitical developments have put a notable damper on the outlook in some regions.

In Eastern Europe, President Vladimir Putin seems intent on expanding Russia’s influence, judging by the country’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Many analysts fear a decline in trade and investment in the region, as the European Union and the U.S. have imposed economic sanctions on Russia, drawing retaliation from the Kremlin reminiscent of the tit-for-tat exchanges of the cold war.