STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a U.S. credit rating threat.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Fitch Ratings did not downgrade the United States, but took a step toward downgrading America's triple-A credit status, putting U.S. Treasury bonds on ratings watch negative - that's the term.

The Chicago-based company says this move was made over the threat of a government default. Here's the words from the statement: Although Fitch continues to believe the debt ceiling will be raised soon, the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.

The government is expected to begin to run out of cash to pay its bills as early as tomorrow - possibly a few days later if a deal is not reached in Congress.

Now Moody's says it does not have plans to downgrade its triple-A rating on U.S. debt, while Standard and Poor's made the downgrade in 2011 the last time Washington flirted with not raising the debt ceiling.

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