Moody’s says U.S. should be able to keep top rating

Moody’s Investors Service said late Friday that the United States should be able to keep its triple-A credit rating as long as Washington works out a deal that lets it continue to pay bondholders.

The credit rating agency said it thinks that even if the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit isn’t raised by Tuesday’s deadline, the government would give priority to making interest payments on its debt and thereby avoid a default.

Moody’s had warned July 13 that the country’s credit rating was in danger of being downgraded because of the stalemate in Congress over raising the debt limit.

In its statement Friday, however, Moody’s said that based on its current review, it would likely rate the U.S. debt as triple-A but with a negative outlook. That would mean that there is a possibility of a downgrade in the future.

Merck cutting 13,000 jobs to fight generic-drug rivals

Merck & Co. plans to cut as many as 13,000 more jobs as the drugmaker prepares for generic competition for its top-selling drug and slower revenue growth in the United States and Europe.

The announcement came Friday as Merck reported a higher second-quarter profit than a year ago. Merck’s stock fell more than 2 percent.

The new cuts would bring to 30,000 the positions eliminated since Merck’s November 2009 deal to buy Schering-Plough, on top of about 5,000 positions the companies cut before the deal closed.

Most of the new job cuts will come from headquarters and other administrative functions. The company also will close some offices and manufacturing sites, CEO Kenneth Frazier told analysts during a conference call. The cuts are to be made by 2015 and won’t start in earnest until next year.

Higher oil, gas prices boost Chevron profits 43 percent

Chevron Corp. said Friday that profits jumped 43 percent in the second quarter as higher oil and gasoline prices made up for a decline in oil production.

The report continued the trend of soaring profits among the major oil companies.

The San Ramon, Calif., oil company reported earnings of $7.7 billion, or $3.85 per share, for the three months ended June 30. That compares with $5.4 billion, or $2.70 per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 31 percent to $66.7 billion.

Bank of America facing new Countrywide lawsuit

Bank of America Corp. is facing a new lawsuit filed by a group of shareholders of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp., which the bank bought in 2008.

The group of investors, among them BlackRock funds, T. Rowe Price Group Inc., TIAA-CREF and several pension funds including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, rejected a $624 million settlement last year, saying the terms were inadequate.

The lawsuit accused Countrywide of misleading shareholders about its finances and lending practices.

“We intend to vigorously defend these claims,” said Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson.

AT&T plans to limit speeds for ‘unlimited’ data users

AT&T Inc. said Friday that it’s going to start limiting speeds for the 5 percent of its customers with “unlimited” data smartphone plans who clog the airwaves the most.

The measure will take effect Oct. 1, AT&T said, and is intended to alleviate congestion on the network.

T-Mobile USA already throttles users who go over certain limits for data consumption.

AT&T stopped signing up new customers for “unlimited” plans last year. Instead, it now lets heavy users pay extra when they go over a certain data allotment.

Verizon Wireless also recently stopped signing up new customers for unlimited service.

— From news service reports