The credit market is looking bleak. Standard & Poor's estimates the three-year default rate between 2008 and 2010 could be more than 23 percent, the worst showing since 1981.

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The credit market is looking bleak. Standard & Poor’s estimates the three-year default rate between 2008 and 2010 could be more than 23 percent, the worst showing since 1981.

But Microsoft (MSFT) was a rare bright spot in the past week, when Moody’s and S&P assigned it their top rating.

Such a rating wasn’t as rare a generation ago. In the early 1980s, S&P says more than 30 industrial companies had AAA ratings. Today, only six nonfinancial corporate-debt issuers do. In addition to Microsoft they include ADP, Exxon Mobil, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson. Rounding out the list for S&P is Pfizer; for Moody’s, it’s Toyota.

Korea’s promotion

South Korea, which just a decade ago was mired in the Asian financial crisis, is now in the big leagues.

FTSE will include South Korea in its developed market index, beginning in September 2009. This likely will create a flood of buying by index mutual funds, to the tune of up to $16 billion, according to Merrill Lynch estimates. MSCI is looking at likewise upgrading South Korea to developed-market status.

It’s a big climb for the country, whose unemployment rate surged to 7 percent in 1998 from 2.6 percent in 1997, according to International Monetary Fund statistics.

All thumbs

Americans are now more likely to use their mobile phones to send text messages than for calls, according to Nielsen Mobile.

The research firm says the typical U.S. mobile customer sent and received an average of 357 text messages per month between April and June, compared with 204 calls.

The figures demonstrate the changing landscape for telecommunications, and other businesses want a piece of the growth. Sears (SHLD) will send texts to customers to notify them when an item is in stock. A former president of Nokia has co-founded a company in Britain solely to send text ads to teenagers.

Wireless data company TeleCommunication Systems (TSYS) said it delivered 80 billion text messages in the first six months of 2008, equaling the amount for all of 2007.

The Associated Press