WASHINGTON -- Moody's Investors Service on Friday announced it had revised 119 municipal bond ratings during the second quarter of 1992, affecting $5.6 billion of debt.
The rating agency said the revisions were "basically balanced," with 61 upgrades and 58 downgrades. Moody's said there was a sizable gap, however, in the amount of debt affected by the revisions, with $3.38 billion downgraded and $2.24 billion upgraded.
Through the year's first six months, Moody's said it upgraded 102 ratings, affecting $8.2 billion of bonds, and downgraded 108 ratings, affecting $35.3 billion.
The agency's most significant general obligation bond rating revision during the second quarter was its downgrade to A1 from Aa in May of Rhode Island bonds.
The Rhode Island action was attributed to "substantial increases in debt and long-term economic vulnerability." Moody's said the new rating also applied to state-guaranteed debt of the Blackstone Valley Sewerage District and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. The downgrade affected about $580 million of debt.
Though not reflected in the agency's second-quarter statistics, a July 1 downgrade of California's GO rating to Aa from Aa1 was noted in the Moody's report. Also affected by the downgrade were state lease-supported bonds, which fell to A1 from Aa.
"The budget impasse, the resultant cash crises, and the issuance of scripss were contributing factors to the downgrade," Moody's said "Failure by the state to take interim steps to assure timely payment of lease and general obligation bonds should the budget stalemate persist, could result" in further rating actions.
Moody's reported that its downgrade of New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to Baa from Baa1 in April affected $1.5 billion of debt, making the downgrade the most substantial in revenue-supported debt during the second quarter. The rating agency attributed the downgrade to "financial pressures resulting from declines in both ridership and tax-supported subsidies, as well as cuts in state and city general appropriation subsidies."
Despite that downgrade, Moody's said revenue bond revisions overall were more favorable than in the GO area. It said it made 29 upgrades of revenue bonds and 13 downgrades during the second quarter. Housing bond ratings led the way, with 10 upgrades and no downgrades. Hospital ratings continued to slide, however, with four upgrades and eight downgrades, Moody's reported.
Looking at bond ratings on a regional basis, Moody's said three of the nation's eight regions -- the Far West, Southeast, and Southwest -- received more upgrades than downgrades, and two -- the Plains and the Rocky Mountains -- received equal numbers of upgrades and downgrades. Moody's said the Far West performed best, with 13 upgrades and one downgrade, while New England performed the worst, with no upgrades and 13 downgrades.