Although the eleventh-hour deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" avoided tax increases, it also prevented any serious debt reduction. Nobody predicts the U.S. debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio to fall below the IMF's projections of rising to 90% by 2016. That heavy load could threaten the nation's credit rating with the big three ratings firms of Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch.

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