The global speculative default rate stayed flat in December, but is expected to resume its downward trajectory in the year ahead, says Moody's Investors Service in a report published Wednesday.
Moody's global default rate for speculative-grade securities finished the final quarter of 2017 at 2.9%, which was unchanged from the previous quarter. Looking ahead however, the firm says that the rate will decline below the 2% mark in 2018.
"Under our baseline scenario, we expect the global speculative-grade default rate to continue its downward path this year and to close it at 1.9%," says Sharon Ou, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's, in a statement. "This forecast aligns to the pick-up in global economic momentum and narrow option-adjusted high-yield spreads and generally good liquidity and low refinancing risk among Moody's-rated speculative-grade issuers."
In 2017, Moody's recorded a total of 90 defaults, down from 143 defaults in 2016. In the fourth quarter, 24 corporate issuers defaulted, which represents an increase from 15 defaults in the third quarter, but is still down from 29 defaults in the second quarter.
Oil and gas companies contributed nine of the fourth quarter defaults. Nevertheless, Moody's says its analysts expect the default risk for US-based oil and gas firms to continue declining in 2018.
The firm is forecasting that the consumer durable goods sector will be the most troubled in the U.S. in 2018. In Europe, the media sector is likely to remain "the most challenged," Moody's says.
By the end of 2018, Moody's is projecting a 2.4% default rate in the U.S., and just 1.2% for Europe.