NEW YORK — Moody's Investors Service said Wednesday the U.S. government's "Aaa" rating is stable despite the country's swelling debt.
A credit rating of "Aaa" is the highest possible. It means the agency sees very little risk of the government defaulting on its debt.
Last week Standard & Poor's, another ratings agency, raised worries that the United States could lose its "AAA" rating after it warned Britain was at risk for a downgrade. Both the British government and the U.S. government have had their central banks inject billions of dollars into their economies by buying bank assets.
The warning sent the dollar and Treasury prices tumbling last week, because a downgrade would increase borrowing costs and hurt the government's economic stimulus efforts.
Moody's on Wednesday did not completely rule out a downgrade.
Steven Hess, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's, said that while the U.S. government's debt rating is stable, a reassessment of the economy and the government's debt could put "negative pressure on the rating in the future."
He added that risks related to Social Security and Medicare could also affect the rating.
"The rating is not guaranteed forever," Hess said in an interview with The Associated Press. Hess said that if the U.S. government's debt ratios are still increasing significantly even after the recession is over, the agency will have to revisit its rating.
Moody's has never rated the U.S. government anything below "Aaa" since it began rating the country's debt in 1917.
The closest Moody's came to downgrading the U.S. government was in 1996, Hess said, when Moody's said certain Treasury bonds coming due that year were at risk for a downgrade. Early that year, Congress refused to raise the government's debt ceiling, and the Treasury Department said it would not be able to make payments on debt if Congress did not lift it.