The ratings agency Standard & Poors warned the United States on Monday that it could lose its coveted status as the worlds most secure economy if lawmakers dont rein in the nations nearly $14.3 trillion debt. The finding, the first of its kind in the 60 years that S&P has been judging the countrys credit quality, sent a jolt through the markets and injected a new sense of urgency into the debate gripping Washington over whether to allow the Treasury to keep borrowing. S&P changed its outlook on the United States from stable to negative and said the federal government could lose its AAA rating if officials fail to bring spending in line with revenue. The AAA rating identifies the United States as one of the worlds safest investments and has helped the nation borrow at extraordinarily cheap rates to finance its government operations, including two wars and an expensive social safety net for retirees. Stock prices fell nearly 2 percent in the hours after the reports release before ending the day down about 1 percent. The dollar and Treasury bonds also slid in the wake of the report but recovered by the end of the day. Lawmakers on both sides of the deficit debate tried to take advantage of the warning from Wall Street, but that just highlighted the point of the report which is that the polarization in Washington is the problem. We believe there is a material risk that U.S. policy makers might not reach an agreement on how to address medium- and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013, S&P said in the report. If an agreement is not reached . . . this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker. S&P is one of the nations three major rating agencies, whose assessments influence the decisions of investors worldwide. The other two major agencies have not changed U.S. ratings. The Obama administration responded to the report by saying that the likelihood of a compromise is greater than the agency realizes. Officials stressed that S&P essentially played the role of political pundit and its guess was as good as anyone elses. We believe S&Ps negative outlook underestimates the ability of Americas leaders to come together to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the nation, said Mary Miller, assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets. Addressing the current fiscal situation is well within our capacity as a country. Last week, President Obama laid out a plan to trim $4 trillion from deficits over the next 12 years. On Friday, House Republicans adopted a budget resolution that would cut deficits by $4.4 trillion over 10 years. S&P lowers its outlook on U.S. debt; stocks decline - The Washington Post S&P is sending a pretty clear message to Congress. We can only hope someone is listening.