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S&P to delay further municipal bond downgrades


Standard & Poor’s, which lowered thousands of municipal-bond ratings tied to the federal government, won’t make further downgrades until details of U.S. spending cuts are settled, Bloomberg reported.

“We don’t have enough information,” Steve Murphy, managing director of U.S. public finance for the ratings company, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We know the states that are reliant on the federal government, we know the locals that are reliant on the federal government, but we don’t know what the cuts are.”

S&P cut about 11,500 securities to AA+ in the $2.9 trillion municipal-bond market after the company downgraded the United States, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They include school construction bonds in Irving, Texas; debt backed by a federal lease in Miami; and a bond series for multifamily housing in Oceanside, Calif.

Institutional money managers are worried that individual investors, who depend more heavily on credit analysis companies, will start selling their municipal holdings, said R.J. Gallo, who manages about $900 million as a senior vice president at Pittsburgh-based Federated Investors.

“If it prompts them to sell munis, it has a price impact, and then I might react in terms of what bonds I want to sell or buy,” Gallo said in a telephone interview.

Investors withdrew about $861 million from U.S. municipal-bond mutual funds in the week through Aug. 3, according to Denver-based Lipper U.S. Fund Flows. It was the second straight week of net withdrawals and the biggest since April.

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