Bloomberg News

NEW YORK — Standard & Poor’s has lowered its ratings outlook for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Merrill Lynch & Co.

It said the move reflected both a business slump and competition from bigger banks. S&P did not change its ratings on the investment banking firms but lowered the outlook on those ratings to “negative.”

Securities firms increasingly offer “less attractively priced products,” such as senior bank loans and commercial paper backup lines, S&P said. The companies have also been hurt by a drop in, mergers and acquisitions and equity underwriting, it noted.

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