Mark Gongloff, Wall Street Journal, 08/2/’11, [Moody’s Affirms US AAA Rating, http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2011/08/02/moodys-affirms-us-aaa-rating/] VN
Moody’s just came out and said, great job, USA, you get to keep your AAA rating. For now. This follows Fitch, which earlier said more or less that they were still reviewing the US rating, a process that could take through August. They didn’t promise they’d keep a AAA rating at the end of the process, but called the debt deal “a step in the right direction.” Now the big shoe dangling is S&P, which is really on the hook, having sounded the loudest warning about a downgrade. The size of the debt deal doesn’t seem to hit the $4 trillion mark S&P has said would be necessary to keep a AAA rating. My prediction? They’ll issue a similar placeholder statement soonish. Meanwhile, let’s hear what Moody’s has to say: Moody’s Investors Service has confirmed the Aaa government bond rating of the United States following the raising of the statutory debt limit on August 2. The rating outlook is now negative. Moody’s placed the rating on review for possible downgrade on July 13 due to the small but rising probability of a default on the government’s debt obligations because of a failure to increase the debt limit. The initial increase of the debt limit by $900 billion and the commitment to raise it by a further $1.2-1.5 trillion by yearend have virtually eliminated the risk of such a default, prompting the confirmation of the rating at Aaa. In confirming the Aaa rating, Moody’s also recognized that today’s agreement is a first step toward achieving the long-term fiscal consolidation needed to maintain the US government debt metrics within Aaa parameters over the long run. The legislation calls for $917 billion in specific spending cuts over the next decade and established a congressional committee charged with making recommendations for achieving a further $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the same time period. In the absence of the committee reaching an agreement, automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion would become effective. In assigning a negative outlook to the rating, Moody’s indicated, however, that there would be a risk of downgrade if (1) there is a weakening in fiscal discipline in the coming year; (2) further fiscal consolidation measures are not adopted in 2013; (3) the economic outlook deteriorates significantly; or (4) there is an appreciable rise in the US government’s funding costs over and above what is currently expected.