Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings affirmed their AAA credit ratings for the U.S. while warning that the ratings could be downgraded if lawmakers fail to enact debt reduction measures and the economy weakens.
The rating outlook 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.
The debt-limit 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.”
A ratings cut would raise the specter that the wrangling between Obama and Republican lawmakers over spending cuts and taxes will harm American prestige and the global financial system. JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimated that a downgrade would raise the nation’s borrowing costs by $100 billion a year. It could also hurt the rest of the U.S. economy by increasing the cost of mortgages, auto loans and other types of lending tied to the interest rates paid on Treasuries.