The downgrading of U.S. government debt by Standard & Poor's Friday evening is a grim milestone in the history of American finance -- and one that will be parsed in excruciating detail in coming days -- but the ultimate practical impact on financial institutions seems likely to be minimal in the short term. The reasons are many.

The downgrade of the U.S. sovereign debt from AAA to AA+ "will not change" the risk weights for Treasury securities and other securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government or government agencies,” the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other federal banking regulators said in a statement.

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