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A day after credit downgrade by S&P, Exxon hikes dividend

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NEW YORK (AP) — A day after losing its cherished AAA credit rating partly due to billions paid to shareholders, Exxon Mobil is raising its dividend again.

The company said Wednesday that it would pay a quarterly dividend of 75 cents per share — a 3 percent increase — in June. That is down from a 6 percent increase in 2015. Exxon has raised the dividend 34 straight years.

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s dropped Exxon Mobil Corp.’s credit rating by one notch to AA+. The ratings agency cited low oil prices, high spending requirements and “large dividend payments.” S&P said it believes Exxon may favor returning cash to shareholders over paying down its debt. Total debt more than tripled in three years to $38.7 billion at the start of 2016.

Exxon was AAA-rated for more than six decades. The downgrade left Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft Corp. as the only U.S. companies holding AAA credit ratings from S&P. Lower ratings can mean higher borrowing costs, but analysts doubted that the downgrade will have a significant effect on Exxon.

In afternoon trading, Exxon shares rose 62 cents to $88.25. They began Wednesday’s session up 12 percent in 2016 and up less than 1 percent in the past 12 months.

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