CHICAGO - Amid a loss of confidence in bond insurers, public finance experts said yesterday that municipal rating standards should give less weight to the question of default and more to other underlying factors that determine credit strength or stress.

The comments come as all three rating agencies are reviewing standards and methodology for rating tax-exempt municipal debt. The reviews are due in part to pressure from regulators and state treasurers who have argued that municipal credits are generally underrated, as well as to rating agencies themselves, who have been "thinking about this for eight or nine years," said Donald Lipkin, managing director at Bank of America Securities, yesterday at the Information Management Networks Illinois Public Finance Conference held in Chicago.

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