Moody’s upgrades U.S. debt outlook

WASHINGTON — Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the outlook for U.S. government debt to “stable” from “negative” and affirmed the United States’ blue chip Aaa rating.

The rating agency cited a surprising drop in the federal deficit — the difference between what the government collects in taxes and what it spends. The U.S. government is on track to report its lowest annual deficit in five years.

Through the first eight months of the budget year, the deficit has totaled $509.8 billion, according to the Treasury Department. That’s nearly $400 billion lower than the same period last year.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts the annual deficit will be $670 billion when the budget year ends on Sept. 30. That would be well below last year’s deficit of $1.09 trillion and the lowest since President Barack Obama took office. It would still be the fifth-largest deficit in U.S. history.

The deficit hit a peak 10.1 percent of gross domestic product — the broadest measure of the U.S. economy — in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. CBO expects the deficit to fall to 3.4 percent of GDP in 2014 and 2.1 percent in 2015.

Moody’s had lowered the outlook to “negative” two years ago. But it never went as far as rival Standard &Poor’s, which stripped the U.S. of its top credit rating in 2011.

S&P last month upgraded its outlook for long-term U.S. government debt but kept its rating at AA+, a notch below its top grade.

A stronger credit outlook and rating should allow governments to borrow at lower interest rates by signaling that their bonds are less risky. Weaker credit ratings should force them to pay higher rates.

But investors largely ignored S&P’s downgrade in 2011. Stocks fell briefly and then rebounded. Yields on Treasurys later fell to record lows.

An improving economy and tax hikes and spending cuts that took effect this year have narrowed the government’s budget gap.

Still, Moody’s warned that the government needed to control longer-term deficits as Baby Boomers age and begin to collect Social Security and Medicare. Failure to do so “could put the rating under pressure again.”

More in Local News

Minutes mattered the day Pat Ward was brought back to life

The Mukilteo police and fire chaplain died at breakfast. She got a second chance thanks to a waitress.

Cool additions at an elementary school in Everett

A totem pole and new gardens grace the courtyard of Whittier Elementary School.

Kids suspected in school’s smashed windows and other damage

The cost of the damage at Explorer Middle School in south Everett is estimated to be $5,000.

Recall issued for about 1,250 pounds of meat

Camano Island’s Sausage Haus products might be contaminated.

3 women seek open seat in 39th District

The GOP nominees hope to fill the opening created by the resignation of Republican John Koster.

Lake Stevens High senior has an entrepreneurial mind

John Cramer crafts and sells designer pens to help pay for college

Marysville-Arlington fiber-optic link planned by Comcast

The high-speed internet line, to be ready next year, is seen as a boost for business development.

Front Porch

EVENTS Health fairs A Senior Healthy Living Fair is set for noon… Continue reading

Cellphone carrier substation in Snohomish vandalized

Detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a… Continue reading

Most Read