Financial 411: Stocks Slide on S&P Warning

S&P May Downgrade Government Debt Rating

Standard & Poor's warned Monday that it might lower its rating on U.S. government debt, sending stocks on their worst slide in a month.

S&P still gives U.S. government debt a Triple-A rating. That's its best. But the credit rating agency also expressed doubts that Washington would move quickly to curb the country's mounting budget deficits.

Of the 17 countries rated Triple-A, the U.S. is the only one to see its rating outlook cut to negative.

The Dow shed 140 points, or 1.1 percent, to close at 12,202.
The S&P dropped 15 points, ending at 1,305.
The Nasdaq slid 29 points, to 2,735.

Kelly Evans writes the column "Ahead of the Tape" for the Wall Street Journal. She says the rating doesn't mean that much — but an actual downgrade could have wide implications. Evans explains why the S&P is unlikely to take that action. She also talks about how the S&P's announcement could offer political ammunition for those pushing for more budget cuts.