WASHINGTON - A group of state insurance regulators next month will begin providing substitute credit ratings for some of the municipal bonds held by insurers, to prevent a possible sell-off of those bonds due to the credit crunch.

The ratings, to be issued by the securities valuation office of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, could be used as a substitute for the ratings provided by credit rating agencies on bonds backed by downgraded insurers, to determine so-called risk capital assessments. These assessments determine how much capital insurers must set aside based on the risk associated with each of their investments.

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