U.S. rating likely to be downgraded again: Merrill

Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:20pm EDT
 
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By Walter Brandimarte

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States will likely suffer the loss of its triple-A credit rating from another major rating agency by the end of this year due to concerns over the deficit, Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecasts.

The trigger would be a likely failure by Congress to agree on a credible long-term plan to cut the U.S. deficit, the bank said in a research note published on Friday.

A second downgrade -- either from Moody's or Fitch -- would follow Standard & Poor's downgrade in August on concerns about the government's budget deficit and rising debt burden. A second loss of the country's top credit rating would be an additional blow to the sluggish U.S. economy, Merrill said.

"The credit rating agencies have strongly suggested that further rating cuts are likely if Congress does not come up with a credible long-run plan" to cut the deficit, Merrill's North American economist, Ethan Harris, wrote in the report.

"Hence, we expect at least one credit downgrade in late November or early December when the super committee crashes," he added.

The bipartisan congressional committee formed to address the deficit -- known as the "super committee" -- needs to break an impasse between Republicans and Democrats in order to reach a deal to reduce the U.S. deficit by at least $1.2 trillion by November 23.

If a majority of the 12-member committee fails to agree on a plan, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts will be triggered, beginning in 2013.

Those automatic cuts, mostly in discretionary spending, would weigh further on a fragile U.S. economy, Merrill said. In the same report, the bank reduced its 2012 and 2013 growth forecasts for the United States to 1.8 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.   Continued...