Merrill Lynch & Co.'s $500 million of 6% notes due January 2001 have been rated AA by Fitch Investors Service and AA-minus by Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co.

Fitch, which also rated the credit trend for Merrill as stable, pointed to the firm's strong 1995 earnings, diverse revenue sources, cost controls, and sound risk management.

Duff also noted Merrill's profitability, and said the acquisition of Smith New Court PLC in August could significantly strengthen Merrill Lynch's overseas competitiveness.

It added, however that there is some "uncertainty" stemming from Merrill's relationship with Orange County in California.

The firm faces a lawsuit as a result of the county's bankruptcy.

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