NATIONAL BRIEFING

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WALL STREET

Moody's Cuts GE's Credit Rating

General Electric lost its top credit rating from Moody's Investors Service because of higher risks at the conglomerate's struggling GE Capital lending unit. The expected move follows a similar downgrade of GE this month by ratings agency Standard & Poor's.

Moody's lowered its ratings for GE and GE Capital two notches to "Aa2" from "Aaa." It said the outlook for both is stable. The downgrades mean GE will likely pay higher costs to borrow money.

GE Capital, which recently made up nearly half of GE's overall earnings, has been hammered by the financial crisis. GE said last week that the finance unit could end up just breaking even this year because of higher losses on loans for credit cards, overseas mortgages, big equipment and commercial property.

Shares of GE rose 89 cents, or 9.3 percent, to $10.43.

CONTRACTING

Lockheed Gets Second Ship Deal

Lockheed Martin received a contract to build its second Navy Littoral Combat Ship, the Defense Department said.

Most of the work will be performed in Marinette, Wis., the Pentagon said on its Web site. Lockheed and General Dynamics are competing for orders to build the ships, and the Navy may buy as many as 55.

The ships are designed for mine clearance, submarine hunting and other missions in shallow coastal waters called littorals. The Navy is buying the vessels in phases, and which contactor wins the next set of orders for three ships in fiscal year 2010 will be based on the pricing the companies submit for orders in 2009.

TRANSPORTATION

Amtrak's Acela Ridership Falls

Amtrak said ridership on its high-speed Acela train line plummeted 17 percent in February from a year earlier, a fifth straight monthly decline, as the recession eroded business travel. The number of passengers on the fastest U.S. passenger rail service, which runs between Boston and Washington, dropped to 226,551.

The number of passengers for all Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington fell 15 percent, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said. Demand fell 14 percent for regional trains on the route.


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