The financial conditions of nonprofits and electric utilities improved in 2011, according to data from Merritt Research Services LLC.

The data is based on more than 6,000 credits in the database, said president Richard Ciccarone.

"Overall, 2011 was a recovery year for muni bonds and their credit," Ciccarone said. Some of the issuers who entered the year with weak credit struggled, though they were the exception, he said.

For the 52% of hospitals that Merritt has received 2011 financial reports for, the median debt service coverage ratio, 3.84, was the best it had been since 2007, Ciccarone said. These hospitals have a median of 188 days' of cash on hand, the best since 2007.

With information from 95% of Merritt's private higher education credits, median enrollment was up in 2011 to its highest levels in five years. The schools' median profit margins and debt service coverage were the best they have been since 2008.

By comparison, in 2011, Standard & Poor's raised the ratings of 31 nonprofit higher education credits and lowered 27.

For the 45% of the retail electric sector that has reported for 2011, the number of days' cash on hand is the best it has been since 2006. The average age of the systems has increased.

The 59% of airports with 2011 information had the best cash-on-hand levels, 423 days, since 1988, Ciccarone said.

With 49% reporting, toll road issuers experienced a stable number of days' of cash on hand, compared to a year earlier, Ciccarone said. Revenues were also stable and profits were up.

For cities with 2011 information available, the story was mixed. The median number of days' cash on hand improved but the total debt level was on the rise.

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