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The U.S. speculative-corporate default rate is likely to edge up, to 7%, by year-end versus 6.6% at the end of 2020, although potentially drifting higher in the early part of this year. Despite success with COVID-19 vaccines, the ratings outlook for the global pharmaceutical industry is negative, with downgrades likely to exceed upgrades for the eighth straight year. New Zealand’s success in containing the coronavirus is a contributing factor in S&P Global Ratings’ raising the country’s foreign currency sovereign rating to ‘AA+’ from ‘AA’.

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Coronavirus Impact

Key Takeaways From Our Articles

Our periodic roundup of key takeaways from our articles brings together all of S&P Global Ratings’ coronavirus-related research—including our regularly updated list of rating actions we have taken globally on corporations, sovereigns, and project finance.


The credit downturn caused by COVID-19 has been abrupt and severe, with a tremendous variance of impact across different corporate sectors. As markets begin to reopen, we will continue to share our views on the economic and credit implications.

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Default, Transition, and Recovery:

The U.S. Speculative-Grade Corporate Default Rate Could Reach 7% By December 2021

Published February 18, 2021

We expect the U.S. trailing-12-month speculative-grade corporate default rate to rise to 7% by December 2021 from 6.6% in December 2020. To reach this baseline forecast, 133 speculative-grade companies would need to default.

In our optimistic scenario, we expect the default rate to fall to 3% by December 2021 (57 defaults), and in our pessimistic scenario, we expect the default rate to expand to 9.5% (180 defaults).

Credit stress has markedly receded since the second quarter of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic has left the speculative-grade segment with a particularly weak rating distribution.

Economic recovery prospects in 2021 appear on more solid footing recently, supported by increased fiscal stimulus, while refinancing risk appears very low this year; risks remain on both fronts.

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Credit Trends: Review Of Ratings Performance Highlights Resilience In 2020

The global coronavirus pandemic led to the deepest recession the world has seen since the Great Depression. Global GDP declined 4% in 2020 amid lockdowns to contain the virus' spread, while governments and central banks stepped in with unprecedented amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus.

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At S&P Global Ratings we are continuously assessing the economic and credit impact of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. Subscribe to our Coronavirus Bulletin today and we will ensure you have all our latest research and forecasts as they are published.

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Economic Research:

Europe’s Housing Market Will Chill In 2021 As Pent-Up Pandemic Demand Eases

Published

Europe's housing prices should grow more slowly in 2021 after a strong 2020, as pent-up demand from lockdowns last year is absorbed, affordability worsens, and economic activity remains subdued.

Prices in 2020 were more dynamic than in 2019 because of strong demand and worsening constraints on supply--despite the biggest economic contraction in decades.

We see reinvigorated demand for housing and housing price growth beyond 2021 after a likely easing of pandemic-related restrictions toward end-2021. This should pave the way for a sustained recovery in the economy and employment.

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Economic Research: Delay Risk On The Rise For Southeast Asia's Recovery

Lingering COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia threaten to delay recoveries in sequential growth rates.

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U.S. Biweekly Economic Roundup: A Stronger-Than-Expected January Sets The Stage

Economic data for January was better than expected because of mild weather, a decline in COVID-19 infections, and stimulus checks from the government. However, weather in February will likely lead to some economic weakness.

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The ESG Pulse:

2021 Lookahead

Published February 11, 2021

We recently revised our long-term industry assessments for the oil and gas (O&G) exploration and production sector, and subsequent took rating actions on highly rated O&G majors. This shows the rising importance of environmental credit factors. Although we cannot accurately predict the pace of the energy transition (likely spread over decades) we recognize that governments' broad alignment with net-zero-emissions commitments raises transition risks.

The ESG Pulse: 2020 Lookback

To increase transparency, we have been explicitly referencing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in our rating actions since March 30, 2020.

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ESG Evaluation Newsletter: February 2021

As of Jan. 31, 2021, we had over 60 ESG evaluations across all four regions and 19 sectors. The highest ESG evaluation score is 89 on Unilever, while the lowest score is 35 on a metals and mining company. We have also released a series of Key Sustainability Factors (KSF) articles that explain what factors are most important and which key performance indicators we use in select sectors. We most recently released a KSF on the financial services sector. In January, we released public evaluations on SUEK, Link REIT, and ING Groep NV.

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