US credit rating slide: What it means

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Standard and Poor’s downgrading the US government’s credit was big news, but what does it mean for you? As it turns out, not too much. I’m Claes Bell with the personal finance minute.

The biggest effect of the downgrade will probably be on investors, who will see the downgrade contribute to short-term volatility in the stock market. But that probably comes as no surprise to Americans who’ve watched their retirement portfolios fluctuate wildly over the last week.

In the long term, stock values could suffer from damage to the repo market, where large financial institutions seek short-term funding, using US Treasuries as collateral. If those Treasuries are seen as more risky, it could make it more expensive for companies to borrow, dragging down their profits.

For those shopping for mortgages and other consumer loans, you’d think a downgrade of U.S. credit would mean higher rates. But thanks to more severe debt problems in Europe and elsewhere, global investors seeking safety in the U.S. have actually pushed rates on American debt instruments down.

Unfortunately, that same mechanic is also at work for CD investors. Deposit products like savings accounts and CDs may see rates even lower than today’s lackluster options because of the global flight to safety.

For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit I’m Claes Bell.