S&P downgrades 15 banks

@CNNMoneyInvest November 30, 2011: 10:05 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Standard and Poor's downgraded the credit ratings of 15 banks Tuesday, after applying new criteria to the world's 37 largest banks.

Among those to suffer a ratings cut: Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500), Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500).

Ratings of Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley dropped one notch to A- from A. S&P maintained a "negative" outlook on those companies.

Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) was cut one level to A+ from AA-, and also has a "negative" outlook.

JPMorgan Chase's rating was revised a step lower to A from A+, but the bank still boasts a "stable" outlook.

Bank of America stock slides to new low

Shares of the major banks were lower in after-hours trading. Bank of America's stock edged down 0.6%, after closing during regular trading at $5.08, its lowest level since March 2009.

Banks outside of the United States also suffered ratings downgrades, including London-based Barclays (BCS) and HSBC (HSBC) and Swiss bank UBS (UBS).

Dutch bank Rabobank lost its AAA rating as a result S&P's changes. Prior to the downgrade, it was the only bank of the word's 37 largest that still held the pristine rating.

Including all of the major banks' subsidiaries, S&P's ratings cuts affected dozens of banks.

On the bright side, Bank of China and China Construction Bank Corp. were upgraded by one notch, from A- to A. They Chinese banks were the only two to enjoy a ratings boost.

S&P's new ratings methodology, announced earlier this month, evaluates banks' creditworthiness based on economic and industry risks, bank-specific strengths and weaknesses, as well as "likelihood of external government or group support."

Financial institutions have had a tough year, with a choppy economic recovery, volatile markets, and concern about what exposure they may have to the European debt crisis.

"U.S. banks are healthier than most Americans are willing to give them credit for, but banking is a business of confidence, and downgrades across the board like this are just another strike against them," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

Last week, the Federal Reserve ordered the top 31 U.S. banks -- those with assets of $50 billion or more -- to participate in stress tests that would see how they'd fare in another financial crisis.

Tests will simulate a more severe global financial meltdown for six banks with the largest trading operations: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup (C, Fortune 500). JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.

In September, Moody's Investors Services downgraded Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. To top of page

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