Credit Ratings Agencies

RECENT NEWS
Insurance Journal  Jul 22  Comment 
A.M. Best has revised the outlooks to stable from positive of Lloyd’s and Lloyd’s Insurance Co. (China) Ltd., while at the same time affirming their financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a+”....
The Economic Times  Jul 21  Comment 
Mutual funds’ debt schemes lend to companies on the basis of their credit ratings; lower the rating, higher is the cost of funding and vice versa.
newratings.com  Jul 19  Comment 
CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday as oil extended overnight losses on concerns over a crude and refined fuel glut, and Moody's Investors Service placed Turkey's investment-grade credit rating...
MarketWatch  Jul 18  Comment 
Moody's Investors Service on Monday placed Turkey's Baa3 credit rating on review for a possible downgrade, raising the possibility that the country could lose its investment grade status in the wake of the failed power grab over the weekend....
Reuters  Jul 18  Comment 
Turkey's investment-grade credit rating is hanging by a thread after last week's attempted coup and any further deterioration would force some conservative investors to dump billions of dollars worth of Turkish assets.
Insurance Journal  Jul 14  Comment 
A.M. Best has upgraded the financial strength rating to A (Excellent) from A- (Excellent) and the issuer credit rating to “a” from “a-” of Preferred Physicians Medical Risk Retention Group Inc. (Preferred Physicians) in Kansas City, Mo....
Financial Times  Jul 14  Comment 
Investors shrug off downgrades as bond market rally picks up pace
Insurance Journal  Jul 14  Comment 
Fitch Ratings this week warned that users of insurance ratings from four large credit rating agencies (CRAs) fail to understand differences in the rating scales – differences that separate A.M. Best from the rest of that pack. Specifically,...
Mondo Visione  Jul 13  Comment 
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published a Consultation Paper on guidelines on the validation and review of Credit Rating Agencies’ (CRAs) methodologies (the CP). The purpose of the draft guidelines is to...
WA Business News  Jul 13  Comment 
A credit rating downgrade could cost more than $1 billion in extra interest bills, but higher taxes to balance the budget is not the solution, according to KPMG Economics.




 

Definition: A credit ratings agency is a company that assigns credit ratings to institutions that issue debt obligations (i.e. assets backed by receivables on loans, such as mortgage-backed securities. These institutions can be companies, cities, non-profit organizations, or national governments, and the securities they issue can be traded on a secondary market.

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A credit rating measures credit worthiness, or the ability to pay back a loan. It affects the interest rate applied to loans - interest rates vary depending on the risk of the investment. A low-rated security has a high interest rate, in order to attract buyers to this high-risk investment. Conversely, a highly-rated security (carrying a AAA rating, like a municipal bond which is backed by stable government agencies) has a lower interest rate, because it is a low-risk investment. These low-risk bonds are available to a wide range of investors, whereas high-risk bonds cater to a narrow investing demographic.

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Companies that issue credit scores for individuals are usually called credit bureaus and are distinct from corporate ratings agencies.

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Big Three

The top three credit ratings agencies in the United States are:

In the wake of recent credit-market turmoil, some niche agencies are picking up market share or at least additional visibility. Among the niche agencies are DBRS and Egan-Jones. Cash loans australia

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Rating Grades

Each rating agency has developed its own system of rating sovereign and corporate borrowers. Fitch Ratings developed a rating system in 1924 that was adopted by Standard & Poor's. Moody's grading is slightly different. Moody's sometimes argues that their ratings embed a conceptually superior approach that directly considers not only the likelihood of default but also the severity of loss in the event of default.

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Long Term Credit Rankings?

Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's use a system of letter sliding from the best rating "AAA" to "D" for issuers already defaulting on payments.

  • Investment Grade
    • AAA  : best quality borrowers, reliable and stable without a foreseeable risk to future payments of interest and principal
    • AA  : very strong borrowers; a bit higher risk than AAA
    • A  : upper medium grade; economic situation can affect finance
    • BBB  : medium grade borrowers, which are satisfactory at the moment
  • Non-Investment Grade
    • BB  : lower medium grade borrowers, more prone to changes in the economy, somewhat speculative
    • B  : low grade, financial situation varies noticeably, speculative
    • CCC  : poor quality, currently vulnerable and may default
    • CC  : highly vulnerable, most speculative bonds
    • C  : highly vulnerable, perhaps in bankruptcy or in arrears but still continuing to pay out on obligations
    • CI  : past due on interest
    • R  : under regulatory supervision due to its financial situation
    • SD  : has selectively defaulted on some obligations
    • D  : has defaulted on obligations and S&P believes that it will generally default on most or all obligations
    • NR  : not rated


Moody's ratings follows a different system

  • Investment Grade
    • Aaa: Obligations rated Aaa are judged to be of the highest quality, with the "smallest degree of risk"
    • Aa1, Aa2, Aa3: Obligations rated Aa are judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk, but "their susceptibility to long-term risks appears somewhat greater".
    • A1, A2, A3: Obligations rated A are considered upper-medium grade and are subject to low credit risk, but that have elements "present that suggest a susceptibility to impairment over the long term".
    • Baa1, Baa2, Baa3: Obligations rated Baa are subject to moderate credit risk. They are considered medium-grade and as such "protective elements may be lacking or may be characteristically unreliable".
  • Non-Investment Grade
    • Ba1, Ba2, Ba3: Obligations rated Ba are judged to have "questionable credit quality."
    • B1, B2, B3: Obligations rated B are considered speculative and are subject to high credit risk, and have "generally poor credit quality."
    • Caa1, Caa2, Caa3: Obligations rated Caa are judged to be of poor standing and are subject to very high credit risk, and have "extremely poor credit quality. Such banks may be in default..."
    • Ca: Obligations rated Ca are highly speculative and are "usually in default on their deposit obligations".
    • C: Obligations rated C are the lowest rated class of bonds and are typically in default, and "potential recovery values are low".
  • Others
    • WR: Withdrawn Rating
    • NR: Not Rated
    • P: Provisional

Quick Quid

FHA Streamline Mortgage What this means to you if you are currently shpniopg for an FHA streamline refinance is that you need to ask the question “are you requiring a credit score for the FHA streamline program?” and expect many lenders to say “yes” .

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Recent developments

SInce the beginning of the credit crunch in early 2007 rating agencies have come under fire for their high ratings of mortgage backed securities (MBS) that did not reflect the financial stability of the borrowers. This has also reopened a discussion whether rating agencies, who get paid by borrowers for their rating, are not in a conflict of interest.

Description Moody\'s S&P Fitch
Maximum SafetyAaaAAAAAA
High gradeAa1AA+AA+
High gradeAa2AAAA
High gradeAa3AA-AA-
Higher medium GradeA1A+A+
Higher medium GradeA2AA
Higher medium GradeA3A-A-
Lower medium GradeBaa1BBB+BBB+
Lower medium GradeBaa2BBBBBB
Lower medium GradeBaa3BBB-BBB-
SpeculativeBa1BB+BB+
SpeculativeBa2BBBB
SpeculativeBa3BB-BB-
Highly SpeculativeB1B+
Highly SpeculativeB2BB
Highly SpeculativeB3B-
Substantially riskyCCC+CCC+
Substantially riskyCaaCCCCCC
May be in defaultCaCCCC
Extremely SpeculativeCCC
Income bonds - not paying interestCI
DefaultDDD
DefaultDD
DefaultDD
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