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Fallen angels show higher default rate, says S&P's survey

Fallen angels were nearly twice as likely to default compared with peers that are rated speculative-grade at inception (referred to as original high yield; OHY), according to a study published by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.

 

The study, which is titled "Crossover Credits: A 24-Year Study Of Fallen-Angel Rating Behavior," also found that default is especially likely in the first three to four years following the fallen angels' downgrade to speculative grade from investment grade. In addition, on average, fallen angels record a shorter time-to-default than their OHY counterparts on a reasonably consistent basis.

 

The report had a number of other interesting findings. "Recovering fallen angels are more likely to become rising stars than their speculative-grade counterparts," said Diane Vazza, head of Standard & Poor's Global Fixed Income

Research Group. Just less than a fifth of fallen angels in the Standard & Poor's database returned to investment-grade territory in three years (18.4%), greater than the 12.5% of their OHY peers in the control group.

 

The behaviours associated with faster downward migration among fallen angels (i.e., higher default rates and lower times-to-default) are properties associated with greater ratings velocity, which may be defined as the speed of

rating movement of an entity--or group of entities--from the time of its crossover into speculative-grade territory until it reaches its minimum rating.

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