American Airlines credit downgraded to B- at S&P

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Shares of American Airlines Group Inc. AAL, +5.61% rallied 6.2% in afternoon trading, even as the air carrier’s credit rating was cut to a peer-group low of B- from B at S&P Global Ratings. The credit rating agency said the outlook on the rating, which is now six notches deep into speculative grade, or “junk” territory, remains negative. S&P said it’s also maintaining its assessment of liquidity at “less than adequate,” given the expectation of a “substantially negative level of cash generation” over the next 12 months. “We expect American to generate a substantial cash flow deficit in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus, but to return to positive cash flow generation in 2021,” S&P said. “While the company is reducing capacity and some associated costs, and benefits from the steep decline in oil prices, we expect these to continue to be more than offset by much weaker traffic.” Meanwhile, S&P rates the credit of United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL, +12.50% at BB-, Delta Air Lines Inc. DAL, +7.76% at BB, Southwest Airlines Co. LUV, +5.56% at an investment grade level of BBB and JetBlue Airways Corp. JBLU, +9.31% at BB-. Another downgrade of American’s rating would put it in the CCC level, which S&P says reflects debt that is “currently vulnerable to nonpayment.” American’s stock has shed 58.4% year to date, while the U.S. Global Jets ETF JETS, +7.33% has shed 45.3% and the S&P 500 SPX, 1.36% has lost 3.4%.

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