Sept 17 - Standard & Poor's investment-grade composite spread contracted by 10 basis points (bps) to 190 bps and the speculative-grade composite spread contracted by 14 bps to 600 bps. By rating, the 'AA', 'A', and 'BBB' spreads narrowed by 11 bps each to 124 bps, 160 bps, and 234 bps, respectively. The 'BB' spread tightened by 12 bps to 408 bps, the 'B' spread tightened by 13 bps to 625 bps, and the 'CCC' spread tightened by 16 bps to 1,004 bps. By industry, financial institutions and banks narrowed by 11 bps each to 269 bps and 268 bps, respectively, and industrials and utilities contracted by 10 bps each to 272 bps and 199 bps, respectively. Telecommunications narrowed by 13 bps to 291 bps. The investment-grade and speculative-grade spreads are both down from their highs reached in October. The investment-grade composite spread is lower than both its one-year moving average of 213 bps and its five-year moving average of 246 bps. The speculative-grade composite spread is lower than both its one-year moving average of 683 bps and its five-year moving average of 750 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.