Moody’s announcement on Tuesday that it would retain its AAA rating of U.S. government sovereign debt as a result of the debt-limit agreement came with a warning: The government must rein in spending or risk a downgrade anyway. The deal “virtually eliminated the risk of [a] default,” but the agency warned that “Should the new mechanism put in place by the Budget Control Act prove ineffective, this could affect the rating negatively.” Moody’s added that it wanted to see the United States lower its debt-to-GDP ratio, now approaching 100 percent, to around 73 percent by 2015, and then gradually move the ratio lower.
Credit rating agencies like Moody’s issue opinions as to the credit worthiness of debt issued by various entities including governments, with 'credit worthiness” being defined as the ability to pay interest on and ultimately pay back the debt. Those ratings directly affect the interest rates offered in the issuance of that debt, and changes in a credit rating will impact the market value of the debt before it is retired.
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