LOS ANGELES - Standard & Poor's Corp. late Tuesday raised its rating on Alaska's $157 million of general obligation bonds to AA from AA-minus, citing in part the state's conservative financial practices.

The rating agency also upgraded the state's $144 million of moral obligation and lease-secured debt to A from A-minus, and upgraded $4.5 million of lease-revenue bonds to A-plus from A.

"The rating upgrades reflect the state's ability to maintain significant financial reserves despite the volatile nature of its oil-and gas-dependent revenue stream," Standard & Poor's said in a release. The agency noted that oil- and gas-related activity provides more than 80% of Alaska's unrestricted revenue.

The agency said the ratings outlook is "stable," based on the expectation that Alaska "will maintain financial reserves at a level sufficient to address continuing volatility" in an economy largely dependent on energy markets.

Moody's Investors Services rates Alaska GOs Aa.

Among other reasons for the upgrades, Standard & Poor's pointed to Alaska's "low and declining direct debt burden due to the lack of any GO debt issuance in nearly a decade."

The rating agency also noted that "enhanced recovery techniques" are prolonging the life of important oil fields, such as those at Prudhoe Bay.

The state's revenue concentration in energy subjects it to severe swings in operating performance, Standard & Poor's said.

Nevertheless, "the state has accumulated and maintains significant financial reserves, totaling more than $2 billion at the end of fiscal 1992 which greatly offsets its vulnerability to worldwide oil price fluctuation pressures," the agency said.

Standard & Poor's also observed that Alaska has continued contributions to the Alaska Permanent Fund, which totals more than $12 billion and generates earnings of more than $1 billion annually.

"The state has remained true to its long-term goal of building up the permanent fund to provide a stable revenue source once oil and gas resources have been depleted," the rating agency said.

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