March 14 - Standard & Poor's investment-grade composite spread remained unchanged at 201 basis points (bps) yesterday, and the speculative-grade composite spread narrowed by 8 bps to 616 bps. By rating, the 'AA' spread remained unchanged at 133 bps, and 'A' and 'BBB' contracted by 1 bp each to 174 bps and 248 bps, respectively. The 'BB' spread tightened by 5 bps to 438 bps, 'B' tightened by 8 bps to 667 bps, and 'CCC' narrowed by 9 bps to 1,037 bps. By industry, financial institutions and industrials remained flat at 304 bps and 292 bps, respectively. Banks tightened by 2 bps to 322 bps. Utilities expanded by 1 bp to 205 bps, and telecommunications contracted by 1 bp to 320 bps. The investment-grade and speculative-grade spreads are both down from their highs reached in October. The investment-grade spread is above its one-year moving average of 196 bps and below its five-year moving average of 238 bps. The speculative-grade composite spread is below both its one-year moving average of 632 bps and its five-year moving average of 717 bps. We expect continued volatility in the near term, especially in the speculative-grade segment, which could result from both positive and negative factors. On the positive side, we expect U.S. corporate defaults to remain below the long-term average in the short term. On the negative side, an increase in volatility in the financial markets, influenced by weakening economic conditions, could continue to weigh on risky assets. Standard & Poor's, a part of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP), is the world's foremost provider of credit ratings. With offices in 23 countries, Standard & Poor's is an important part of the world's financial infrastructure and has played a leading role for 150 years in providing investors with information and independent benchmarks for their investment and financial decisions.