Monday, October 26, 2020

Fewer corporate defaults than expected

In Corporate Defaults Slow, Lifting Debt Market, WSJ's Sam Goldfarb reports that "At the end of September, the trailing 12-month default rate for U.S. corporate issuers of speculative-grade bonds and loans was 8.5% ... below the 11.2% rate that Moody's had forecast in early April and a decline from the previous month's rate of 8.7%."

Congress and the Fed have minimized defaults so far by sending cash to households and making it easier for businesses to borrow.  More than $360 billion of speculative-grade bonds have been issued since the start of 2020, surpassing all previous full-year totals.

But leverage ratios are elevated- "the average high-yield bond issuer now has debt equal to 6.1 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, the highest level on record." So it seems likely that either the peak of defaults has been delayed by more leveraging, or the decline in default rates won't happen as quickly as it has in previous recessions.

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