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Rating agency Standard & Poor's cut


(F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report

ratings Tuesday, citing the automaker's weakening performance.

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S&P cut its ratings on Ford and its finance unit Ford Motor Credit Co. by a notch to B, five levels below investment grade, from B-plus. The outlook is negative, indicating an additional cut is likely over the next two years.

The news comes just days after Ford unveiled a new round of firings and said its core North American auto unit won't swing into the black till at least 2009. Ford said earlier this year that it expected to see a profit there in 2008.

"The work force reductions and accelerated restructuring efforts will result in massive special charges and add to the cash burn already occurring in North America," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Robert Schulz, "although in the longer term, the moves will likely result in future cash savings."

"Standard & Poor's is assessing all ramifications of the restructuring, as well as Ford's efforts to address other ongoing challenges, including lower market share and deteriorating product mix in North America," the firm said. "We expect to resolve the CreditWatch within a week."

Ford fell 15 cents to $7.67.