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Friday, September 02, 2011

After downgrading U.S., S&P gives top rating to sub-prime mortgages

The United States may not deserve a triple AAA credit rating, but the same sub-prime mortgage assets that caused the housing bust do -- at least according to the country's leading ratings agency.

Standard & Poor's is set to slap a coveted AAA rating on a set of bonds tied to mortgages given to homeowners with below-average credit scores and almost no equity in their properties, Bloomberg reports. The agency, as well as its competitors Moody's and Fitch, have been roundly criticized for giving high ratings to similar sub-prime assets in the run-up to the financial crisis. All thee companies are paid by the banks who request ratings for their investments -- a business model that many say gives the agencies an incentive to award high ratings.

Last month, S&P controversially downgraded the U.S.'s credit rating, citing concerns about the country's long-term fiscal situation and its political process for resolving it. The U.S. does not request, or pay for, a rating.