MuniLand

How risky is that rating?

By Cate Long
January 6, 2012

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s data platform for municipal bonds, EMMA, recently added credit ratings from Fitch and Standard & Poors to the system. This makes it really simple for investors to get a snapshot of the relative risk of one bond over another when doing research.

Typically the higher the rating, the lower the likelihood that a bond will default. New rules issued in 2008 for credit rating agencies required them to disclose the quantitative results of their ratings and show over time how many bonds defaulted in each rating category. This allows investors to map the performance of ratings over time and allows comparisons between agencies. The system looks at the occurrence of default 1, 3 and 10 years after the bond was issued.

The SEC views default statistics as a window into the accuracy of credit rating agencies’ analysis. Raters are required to publish this data, separated into bond classifications, on an annual basis on SEC Form NRSRO (Fitch’s 2011 NRSRO). I published the comparable data for municipal bonds from Standard & Poors in August. The two raters are broadly similar but not identical.

Investing in municipal bonds does have risk. Looking at default data is the best way to understand how much.

Fitch Ratings One-, Three-, and 10-Year Default Rates By Rating Modifier for Public Finance (%) 2010

Rating Year 1 Year 3 Year 10
AAA 10.0 0.00 0.00 0.00
AA+ 9.5 0.00 0.00 0.00
AA 9.0 0.00 0.08 0.00
AA- 8.5 0.00 0.00 0.00
A+ 8.0 0.00 0.00 0.00
A 7.5 0.00 0.00 0.00
A- 7.0 0.00 0.09 0.00
BBB+ 6.5 0.00 0.09 1.28
BBB
6.0 0.00 0.10 0.76
BBB- 5.5 0.24 0.77 5.11
BB+ 5.0 0.00 0.00 0.00
BB 4.0 0.00 4.76 9.09
BB- 3.5 2.17 9.68 0.00
B+ 3.0 2.78 3.13 33.33
B 2.5 1.69 0.00 0.00
B- 2.0 6.25 18.80 0.00
CCC to C 1.5 11.11 22.86 46.67
© Multiple-Markets 2012

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