LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Top Michigan officials expressed satisfaction Thursday with the credit ratings given a new program designed to help young couples save for the down payments for their first homes.

Gov. James Blanchard said Michigan got the highest credit rating possible for short-term bonds to be sold under the Home Ownership Savings Trust.

The ratings for long-term bonds in the HOST program parallel Michigan's overall bond rating and are just one notch below the highest, said state Treasurer Robert Bowman.

Both said the interest rates reflect the evaluation of Michigan's financial strength, especially when compared to other areas of the nation, which are slumping.

The HOST program guarantees money invested in it will grow at least as fast as housing inflation in Michigan.

Moody's Investors Service rated the short-term bonds MIG-1 and Standard & Poor's Corp. gave them a SP-1 rating, officials said.

Long-term features of the HOST program - for investments lasting more than about a year - will carry an AA rating from Standard & Poor's, A-1 from Moody's and AA from Fitch Investors Service.

Acquiring a credit rating was needed to market the HOST bonds, which will go on sale shortly, officials said.

Under the program, investors can buy the general obligation bonds with monthly payments, a lump sum, or a combination of both for up to five years. The investors estimate how much they'll need for a down payment and a payment schedule is set based on that.

The minimum savings plan would require payments of $50 a month, Bowman said.

About 6,000 people have expressed interest in the tax-free HOST investments so far, officials said.