High-Yield Bond Defaults Trending Higher in September

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The trailing 12-month default rate on U.S. high-yield bonds slipped from 5.1% at the end of July to 4.9% in August, following defaults on just $1.7 billion in high-yield debt. The August total already has been more than doubled in the first half of September, as $3.8 billion in high-yield defaults have already occurred.

In the first six months of 2016, high-yield defaults totaled $50.2 billion. In all of 2015 the total value of defaulted high-yield bonds was $48.3 billion.

The September data were published Wednesday by Fitch Ratings. The rating agency also noted that new issuances in August totaled $17.6 billion and that September’s issuance is expected to top $19.9 billion, the amount of new high-yield debt issued in September 2015.

Fitch has forecast an energy sector default rate by the end of 2016 between 16% and 18%. The August energy trailing 12-month default rate finished at 15.8%, while the exploration and production subsector rate was 31.5%.

Eric Rosenthal, Fitch Ratings’ senior director of leveraged finance, said:

If crude oil prices remain in or rise above the mid-high $40 range, the energy default rate could end 2016 at the lower end of our expectations, at closer to 16%.

Through September 13, a total of 58 energy companies have filed for bankruptcy this year, according the law firm of Haynes and Boone. The total dollar value involved is $50.38 billion. Since January of 2015, nearly $68 billion in secured and unsecured debt has been included in bankruptcy filings.