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US keeps its grades up, Moody’s maintains AAA credit rating

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Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings affirmed their AAA credit ratings for the U.S. while warning that downgrades were possible if lawmakers fail to enact debt reduction measures and the economy weakens.

The outlook for the U.S. grade is now negative, Moody’s said in a statement yesterday after President Barack Obama signed into law a plan to lift the nation’s borrowing limit and cut spending following months of wrangling between Democratic leaders and Republican lawmakers.

The compromise “is a positive step toward reducing the future path of the deficit and the debt levels,” Steven Hess, senior credit officer at Moody’s in New York, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “We do think more needs to be done to ensure a reduction in the debt to GDP ratio, for example, going forward.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimated that a downgrade would raise U.S. borrowing costs by $100 billion a year, while Obama said it could hurt the broader economy by increasing consumer borrowing costs tied to Treasury rates. The ratio of general government debt, including state and local governments, to gross domestic product is projected to climb to 100 percent in 2012, the most of any AAA-ranked country, Fitch said in April.

Full story: Moody’s affirms U.S. rating, warns of downgrades