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At least five Massachusetts, including Freetown, cities have begun the new year on an optimistic note after a major credit service raised their bond ratings, citing their strong economic and budgetary performances.

    A bond rating for the state is like a credit rating for a person. The Standard & Poor's Rating Services bond rating system uses an alphabetical scale from AAA _ indicating an extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments _ down to D, marking an obligation that is in default.

    Standard & Poor's raised the rating for Salem and Attleboro's bonds two notches to AA from A-plus. The rating for Gloucester, Freetown and North Attleboro also rose one notch each. The outlook for all is stable.

    S&P upgraded Gloucester's bond rating to AA from A-plus, North Attleboro rose to AA from AA-minus and Freetown's jumped to AA from AA-minus.  (Associated Press)