When is a triple-B bond safer than a triple-A? The answer, based on historical default rates, is when the triple-B is a municipal bond and the other is a corporate security.

The ratings divergence isn't only a consideration for investors trying to choose between munis and corporates. On June 15 a Dodd-Frank Act rule goes into effect that requires rating agencies to adopt procedures designed so credit ratings weigh default risk "in a manner that is consistent" for all rated obligors and securities.

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