Daily News: May 21, 2012

Fitch: U.S. High-Yield Default Rate to Top 2% in May

The trailing 12-month default rate remained flat in April at 1.9%, according to a new report by Fitch Ratings. The month produced two relatively modest defaults — Reddy Ice and Dex One — affecting a combined $537.8 million in bonds.

However, the recent bankruptcy filings by mortgage lender Residential Capital (ResCap) and aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft add $3.4 billion to the April year-to-date default tally of $5.8 billion. Fitch projects that the U.S. high yield default rate will top 2% in May, the highest level since October 2010.

The pace of defaults is running ahead of early 2011 activity. The year-to-date defaulted issuer count, including ResCap and Hawker, stands at 16, compared with seven in the first five months of 2011. The par value of bonds affected by defaults is up even more substantially, totaling $9.2 billion thus far versus $1.7 billion in 2011.

As expected, the uptick in defaults is due entirely to stress at the CCC or lower level, where the default rate is tracking at an annualized rate of 10%.

Additional information is available at Fitch Ratings.