Ratings represent an evaluation of credit quality, conducted by independent financial analysis firms. Credit ratings and research can help investors assess marketplace value and degree of investment risk.
Standard & Poor's(S&P), Moody's and Fitch are leading global credit rating, research and risk analysis operations. Their highest long-term rating is AAA/Aaa and the lowest is C. Moody's uses numerical modifiers (1, 2, 3) in each rating classification while S&P and Fitch use plus and minus signs.
Short-term ratings by these agencies assess the ability of the company to repay short-term debt obligations. A1/P1/F1 ratings (highest short-term rating) by S&P, Moody's and Fitch respectively indicate a superior ability to repay short-term debt obligations; A2/P2/F2 indicates satisfactory ability and A3/P3/F3 indicates adequate ability to meet the short-term financial liabilities.
The same rating from different firms may not mean exactly the same thing. Each firm will use different techniques and subjective assessment in formulating ratings opinions.
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