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Fitch keeps U.S. at AAA, dims outlook

WASHINGTON — Fitch said Monday that it will keep its rating for long-term U.S. debt at the top AAA level – despite a congressional panel’s failure to agree on long-term deficit cuts – but it is lowering its outlook to negative.

The rating agency said it has less confidence in the federal government’s ability to take the necessary steps to rein in the deficit.

Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s also left their ratings unchanged last week, but both warned that they could lower their ratings if Congress backed off the
$1.2 trillion in automatic cuts triggered by the committee’s failure to approve its own plan.

S&P downgraded long-term U.S. debt in August to the second-highest level, AA-plus, and switched its outlook to negative. It was the first time the credit rating agency had lowered the nation’s AAA rating since granting it in 1917.

GM offering loaner cars to Volt owners

DETROIT — General Motors, concerned about the image of its Chevrolet Volt, is offering free loaner vehicles to owners worried about their electric car catching fire.

Federal officials on Friday launched a formal safety-defect investigation into GM’s plug-in hybrid vehicle after crash tests on several Volts and their batteries resulted in fires. In one case, a fire that started in one test vehicle consumed three others parked nearby.

GM said Monday that the vehicle is safe, but it will contact owners of the more than 5,000 Volts sold in North America since December 2010 to reassure them. It will also offer loaner cars to ensure owners are satisfied and confident in their purchase.

GM has not put a time limit on how long customers can keep the loaners, but it said the offer is not a response to demands from customers.

In other news

THE OWNER OF THE Ring­ling Bros. circus has agreed to pay a $270,000 fine to settle allegations that it violated federal animal-welfare laws in its handling of elephants, tigers, zebras and other exotic animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the civil penalty announced Monday against Feld Entertainment is the largest assessed against an animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act.

A VERMONT FOLK ARTIST expanding his home business built around the words “eat more kale” says he’s ready to fight to protect his phrase from what he sees as an assault by Chick-fil-A, which holds the trademark to the phrase “eat mor chikin.” A lawyer for Chick-fil-A said Bo Muller-Moore’s effort to expand the use of his “eat more kale” message “is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property and diminishes its value.”

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