S&P Cuts AAA Rating On Thousands Of Municipal Bonds

The much awaited cut by S&P of thousands of municipal bonds following its August 5 downgrade of the US has arrived. Per Bloomberg: "The rating company assigned AA+ scores to securities in the $2.9 trillion municipal bond market including school- construction bonds in Irving, Texas; debt backed by a federal lease in Miami; and a bond series for multifamily housing in Oceanside, California. Olayinka Fadahunsi, an S&P spokesman, said he couldn’t provide a dollar figure on the affected debt. “It’s expected, but nobody is happy about it,” Bud Byrnes, chief executive officer of Encino, California-based RH Investment Corp., said in a telephone interview. “No one that I know thinks it was justified to cut the U.S. bonds to AA+. Once that happened, you knew that any prerefunded bonds or escrowed bonds would be downgraded too. It’s a domino effect.”" Well, Bud, if you really have so few acquaintances, we suggest you go out more. There are some fun bars on Ventura: give us a call for the low down. As for people who do go out more, here's one: "Chris Mier, a managing director at Loop Capital Markets LLC in Chicago who follows the municipal bond market, said the downgrades made sense, given the federal rating cut. “In order to keep the system logical and coherent, there are going to be a lot of downgrades,” Mier said in a conference call with reporters and clients." Matt Fabian, a managing director of Concord, Massachusetts- based Municipal Market Advisors, a financial research company, said in a telephone interview that he expected “hundreds and hundreds of municipal downgrades,” which may hurt investor confidence. “Treasuries may be able to shake off a real impact from the downgrade,” he said. “Munis, I’m less sure about." That's ok, while nobody has any idea what is coming, that won't stop 99.9% of those on Comcast's financial comedy channel from opining anyway.


The company said on July 21 that a U.S. downgrade based on a failure to come up with a “realistic and credible” plan to reduce the budget deficit would be the “least disruptive” scenario for municipal ratings. That’s because it would mean Congress avoided making significant cuts to the funding of municipal credits not directly linked to the federal government, S&P said.


Top-rated state and local governments wouldn’t automatically lose their top scores, the company said. It rates the general-obligation debt of nine states AAA. The country’s “decentralized governmental structure” calls for an independent review of state and local government credits, 3.9 percent of which have AAA ratings, S&P said in a report.


State and municipal governments that depend less on the national government for revenue and that manage their own books well enough to weather declines in federal funding may retain AAA ratings, S&P said. The company didn’t name such states or municipal governments in the report. 


Municipal issuance has fallen amid the U.S. debt-ceiling impasse. The slump and signs of a slowing economy helped drive tax-exempt yields to the lowest this year. Scheduled debt sales total about $2.8 billion this week, the slowest August week since 2003, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


For the municipal market, “the key is supply and demand,” more than ratings downgrades, said Ed Reinoso, chief executive officer of Castleton Partners in New York, which manages about $250 million for individuals.


The S&P action itself “was almost cosmetic,” he said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t seem to have much impact.”

Sure, just like the Fukushima explosion had no impact on the lift expectancy of those surrounding it back in March. Perhaps we should all check back with population in the immediate vicinity in a few years... And then do the same for debt issuers in the US.