London Telegraph 
Friday, Feb 27, 2009
A bigger proportion of non-investment grade companies will go bust in the US and overseas in the coming years than during the Great Depression, according to Moody’s, one of the world’s foremost experts on credit.
In what will be seen by many as die-cast confirmation that the world economy is plummeting towards an economic and corporate implosion of unprecedented proportions, Moody’s said it anticipated a tidal wave of defaults was approaching.
It said that in the coming months more than 15pc of speculative-grade bonds and loans – all but the most highly-rated – would default on their debts.
This peak is even higher than the peak reached in 1933, when bank after bank throughout America was collapsing, taking hoards of other companies with them. Back then, the default rate peaked at 15.4pc; moreover these companies were former investment grade issuers regarded as more reliable credit prospects than their contemporary counterparts.
Kenneth Emery, senior vice president at Moody’s said: “The three main drivers of the forecasting model are forecasts for the high-yield bond spread and the unemployment rate, along with the current level of issuer ratings. In the fourth quarter, the high yield bond spread reached unprecedented levels; and we’ve got an unemployment forecast approaching 9pc this year and issuer ratings at record low levels.
“We certainly think that this credit cycle will be worse than the last two in the early 1990s and 2000s. In fact, in 2009 we expect to see the largest number of defaults since the advent of high yield bond market in the early 1980s. And the default rate for non-investment grade bonds may reach levels even higher than those registered during the Great Depression.