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California Credit Rating Cut Close to Junk After IOUs (Update2)
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By William Selway
July 6 (Bloomberg) -- California’s credit rating was cut for the second time in as many weeks by Fitch Ratings after a stalemate over how to close a $26 billion budget deficit forced the most-populous U.S. state to pay some bills with IOUs.
Fitch lowered its rating of California’s general obligation bonds by two steps to BBB from A-, placing the debt two ranks above so-called high-yield, high-risk junk ratings, and said the state may be cut further. The credit-rating company last lowered its assessment of California on June 25.
California, the largest issuer of municipal bonds, last week began issuing IOUs for the second time since the Great Depression as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers remained deadlocked over the budget cuts needed to make up for revenue lost because of the recession. California Controller John Chiang said the step was needed to conserve cash.
“The downgrade to ‘BBB’ is based on the state’s continued inability to achieve timely agreement on budgetary and cash flow solutions to its severe fiscal crisis,” Fitch said in a statement.
California, with the world’s eighth-largest economy, was already the lowest-rated U.S. state. Standard & Poor’s gives the state it’s A grade, the sixth-highest of 10 investment levels. The firm reaffirmed that assessment on July 1. Moody’s Investors Service rates the debt A2 and placed it on watch on June 19.