NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Moody's Investors Service downgraded the debt ratings of Asbury Automotive Group Inc. further into junk status Wednesday, citing the expectation that auto retailers will continue to suffer this year as consumer demand shrinks.

The ratings agency cut Asbury's corporate family rating and its probability of default rating to "B2" from "B1."

The rating outlook remains negative.

"Moody's concern is that the tough macroeconomic environment for the auto dealers will continue well into 2009, and it may be difficult for Asbury to staunch the downward momentum it is presently feeling," Moody's Senior Analyst Charlie O'Shea said.

Shares rose 6 cents Wednesday to close at $4.20.

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