UPDATE 1-Fitch cuts Whirlpool ratings; shares fall

Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:48pm GMT

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ATLANTA Jan 29 (Reuters) - Fitch Ratings cut its credit rating on Whirlpool Corp (WHR.N) to one notch above "junk" status on Thursday and said the outlook was negative citing an expected decline in global appliance demand this year.

Whirlpool's shares closed down 12.8 percent to $34.50 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has fallen 58 percent in the past year.

Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service last week also cut credit ratings on Whirlpool to one notch above speculative status.

The lower ratings could make raising funds through the credit markets more expensive.

"We won't comment on the specific action taken by Fitch, although it's not terribly surprising given the current state of the industry," Whirlpool spokeswoman Jill Saletta said in an email.

Fitch cut its long-term issuer default and senior unsecured notes ratings to "BBB minus" from "BBB."

It said Whirlpool is likely to face pressure from continued weakness in the U.S. housing market as well as slowing demand in international markets such as Latin America. It added that rising costs were also an issue for the appliance company.

Whirlpool posted lower quarterly earnings in 2008, hurt by higher materials costs and falling appliance sales in North America, its biggest market. (Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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