S&P Threatens to Slash Financials

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Standard & Poor's let the next shoe drop on the way to a U.S. default.

The rating agency on Friday placed all five AAA-rated U.S. insurers on review for possible downgrades, along with three clearing houses, "select" members of the twelve Federal Home Loan Banks, and government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae ( FNMA) and Freddie Mac ( FMCC).

The insurers placed on "Credit Watch Negative" Friday include:
  • Knights of Columbus, New York Life Insurance Co.
  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.
  • Teachers Insurance & Annuity Assoc. of America (TIAA)
  • United Services Automobile Assoc. (USAA)
  • Goldman Sachs Mitsui Marine Derivative Products LP, which is a unit of Goldman Sachs (GS).

S&P said that all of the AAA-rated companies placed on "Credit Watch Negatative," except for the Goldman subsidiary, had "significant holdings of U.S. Treasury and agency securities." The agency added, however, that "in the unexpected event of a U.S. default, we would expect these insurers' losses, if any, to be modest and manageable relative to capital."

Following its announcement Thursday that it had placed its "AAA/A-1" short-term sovereign credit rating for the United States on "Credit Watch Negative" for a possible downgrade, in light of the continuing debt-ceiling farce taking place in the nation's capital, Stand & Poor's on Friday said it had

The agency said it viewed "the long-term ratings on the U.S. insurers to be constrained by the U.S. sovereign credit rating because their businesses and assets are highly concentrated in the U.S.," while adding that the "short-term ratings on the insurance companies remain unchanged."

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-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.