Not-for-profit hospitals, dogged by poor investment returns and higher debt, continued to experience more downgrades than upgrades in the first quarter, Standard & Poor's said. The ratings agency reported 17 downgrades and four upgrades in the first quarter; that compares with six downgrades and four upgrades in the first quarter of 2002. Despite higher operating margins, hospital credit quality suffered from three straight years of declining equity and growing debt. Similarly, Fitch Ratings said it lowered six acute-care ratings and raised three in the first quarter, compared with three downgrades and no upgrades in the first quarter of 2002. Healthcare bond issuance totaled $6 billion in the first quarter, a 12% increase from the year-earlier period, Fitch said. -- by Mary Chris Jaklevic
Not-for-profits credit quality continues decline
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