Fitch cuts Countrywide's debt rating to near junk

Performance of home-equity, pay-option ARM loans cited

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Add Countrywide Financial Corp. to the list of banks and mortgage lenders who have seen their debt ratings lowered by Fitch Ratings over new concerns about the poor performance of home-equity loans.

Fitch announced Wednesday that it was cutting Countrywide Financial’s long-term issuer default rating two notches, to "BBB-" — the lowest investment-grade category. Fitch took the same action for the company’s subsidiaries, Countrywide Bank and Countrywide Home Loans Inc.