S&P brightens rating outlook for Arkansas

BY SourceMedia | MUNICIPAL | 05/07/24 06:17 AM EDT By Karen Pierog

Citing Arkansas' "financial resiliency," S&P Global Ratings revised the outlook on the state's AA general obligation bond rating to positive from stable.

The rating agency's action Thursday came ahead of the state's sale of about $30 million of water, waste disposal and pollution abatement facilities GO bonds.

"The outlook revision reflects Arkansas' demonstrated budget management practices and financial resiliency across economic cycles, which has yielded steady operating surpluses and an accumulation of substantial reserves," S&P analyst Rob Marker said in a statement. "This is in conjunction with our expectation that recent improving economic and demographic growth trends will more closely align with U.S. levels over time, all of which support our view of a one-in-three chance that we could raise the rating over the outlook period."

Arkansas is rated Aa1 with a stable outlook by Moody's Ratings.

"The rating reflects the state's strong governance practices, with conservatively managed financial operations that consistently result in healthy year-end fund balances and below-average debt and pension burdens," Moody's said in a May 1 report. "These features balance credit risks stemming from a weak demographic profile and exposure to elevated Medicaid expenses."

"I'm pleased that both Moody's and S&P affirmed their credit ratings for the State of Arkansas," said Jim Hudson, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. "S&P's improved outlook for the state from 'stable' to 'positive' is a direct result of the hard work by Governor (Sarah Huckabee) Sanders and the Arkansas General Assembly to fully fund our long-term reserves and to limit the growth of spending."

The state had $514.13 million of GO bonds issued for highways, water, capital improvements, and higher education outstanding as of June 30, 2023.

In general the bond market is volatile, and fixed income securities carry interest rate risk. (As interest rates rise, bond prices usually fall, and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities.) Fixed income securities also carry inflation risk and credit and default risks for both issuers and counterparties. Unlike individual bonds, most bond funds do not have a maturity date, so avoiding losses caused by price volatility by holding them until maturity is not possible.

Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

Before investing, consider the funds' investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully.