Independent rating firm downgrades U.S. debt to AA, third-highest rating

It also maintained a negative watch on the world’s biggest economy as the federal debt load could rise to $16.7 trillion at the end of 2012. U.S. gross domestic product, in the meantime, could grow to $15.7 trillion, assuming it would grow at a rate of 2.5 percent, the firm said.

The firm downgraded the United States for second time in less than nine months “because of the lack of any tangible progress on addressing the problems and the continued rise in debt to GDP,” said Sean Egan, co-founder of firm, in an e-mail statement.

Egan-Jones’s downgrade did not elicit major market responses. U.S. government debt prices jumped on Friday after news of much weaker-than-expected job growth in March renewed bets the U.S. central bank would embark on more bond purchases to foster economic growth.