articles Ratings /ratings/en/research/articles/190529-credit-trends-the-bbb-u-s-bond-market-exceeds-3-trillion-11004620 content
Log in to other products

Login to Market Intelligence Platform


Looking for more?

Request a Demo

You're one step closer to unlocking our suite of comprehensive and robust tools.

Fill out the form so we can connect you to the right person.

If your company has a current subscription with S&P Global Market Intelligence, you can register as a new user for access to the platform(s) covered by your license at Market Intelligence platform or S&P Capital IQ.

  • First Name*
  • Last Name*
  • Business Email *
  • Phone *
  • Company Name *
  • City *
  • We generated a verification code for you

  • Enter verification Code here*

* Required

Thank you for your interest in S&P Global Market Intelligence! We noticed you've identified yourself as a student. Through existing partnerships with academic institutions around the globe, it's likely you already have access to our resources. Please contact your professors, library, or administrative staff to receive your student login.

At this time we are unable to offer free trials or product demonstrations directly to students. If you discover that our solutions are not available to you, we encourage you to advocate at your university for a best-in-class learning experience that will help you long after you've completed your degree. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

In This List

Credit Trends: The 'BBB' U.S. Bond Market Exceeds $3 Trillion

Credit Trends: The 'BBB' U.S. Bond Market Exceeds $3 Trillion

Chart 1


The 'BBB' rating category is the largest among currently outstanding U.S. corporate debt instruments rated by S&P Global Ratings. Investors have increasingly focused on the growth of this category, the lowest within investment grade ('BBB-' or above), because of the risk that this debt could be downgraded to speculative grade ('BB+' or lower). With nearly $3.2 trillion in bonds and notes, the 'BBB' category accounts for the majority (53%) of investment-grade bonds in the U.S. The amount of debt in 'BBB' category bonds is more than two and a half times the size of the speculative-grade bond market. Retail investors are broadly exposed to these bonds through diversified mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, insurance, and pensions.

For this report, we looked at the size and structure of the 'BBB' corporate credit market in 2019. Below are the highlights of our research.


The average one-year downgrade rate for 'BBB-' companies in the U.S. is 9.4%.  However, only 19% of 'BBB' category bonds are rated 'BBB-' (by dollar amount). Multinotch downgrades from 'BBB+' or 'BBB' are much less common than downgrades from 'BBB-'. The one-year average transition rate to speculative grade is 3% for 'BBB' and 1.4% for 'BBB+'. Although individual funding costs for a company rise after a downgrade to speculative grade, the speculative-grade bond market has shown the ability to accommodate large downgrades from the 'BBB' category in prior periods. For more information, please see "The U.S. Speculative-Grade Market Can Withstand 'BBB' Downgrades," published April 24, 2019.


Bonds and notes account for the lion's share of 'BBB' category debt instruments, with 84% of the U.S. total.  In addition to bonds, the 'BBB' corporate debt market in the U.S. includes $315 billion in term loans and $271 billion in revolving credit facilities (see chart 2).

Chart 2


Global Distribution

The majority of 'BBB' category debt globally is from U.S. companies, which account for 54% of the $7.0 trillion total.  Globally, 73% of this debt is from nonfinancial companies, while 27% is from financial services (see table).

The 'BBB+' rating is the largest within the category, accounting for more than 41% of 'BBB' debt globally.  While the level of 'BBB' category debt is high, only about 25% of this debt globally is at the lowest investment-grade rating of 'BBB-'. Just over $1.0 trillion in 'BBB-' debt is from U.S. companies (including $606 billion in bonds and $405 billion in term loans and revolving credit facilities).

Global Distribution Of 'BBB' Category Debt
--Debt amount (bil. $)-- --Debt amount (%)--
U.S. Global excluding U.S. Global U.S. Global excluding U.S. Global
BBB+ 809.0 1,003.5 1,812.5 11.5 14.3 25.8
BBB 1,185.5 673.2 1,858.7 16.9 9.6 26.5
BBB- 937.5 499.3 1,436.8 13.3 7.1 20.5
'BBB' category 2,932.0 2,176.0 5,108.0 41.7 31.0 72.7
Financial services
BBB+ 646.3 451.8 1,098.1 9.2 6.4 15.6
BBB 139.9 368.8 508.7 2.0 5.2 7.2
BBB- 74.2 236.0 310.2 1.1 3.4 4.4
'BBB' category 860.4 1,056.5 1,917.0 12.2 15.0 27.3
BBB+ 1,455.3 1,455.3 2,910.6 20.7 20.7 41.4
BBB 1,325.4 1,042.0 2,367.4 18.9 14.8 33.7
BBB- 1,011.6 735.3 1,746.9 14.4 10.5 24.9
'BBB' category 3,792.4 3,232.6 7,025.0 54.0 46.0 100.0
Note: Includes bonds, loans, and revolving credit facilities that are rated by S&P Global Ratings from financial and nonfinancial issuers. Data as of Jan. 1, 2019. Source: S&P Global Fixed Income Research.

Sector Distribution

By sector, financial institutions account for $744 billion of 'BBB' category debt in the U.S.  The majority (79%) of this debt is rated 'BBB+'. Much of this financial institutions debt is from the bank holding companies of large, systemically important financial institutions, including Citigroup Inc., The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Morgan Stanley.

Of the nonfinancial sectors, the telecommunications and utility sectors have the largest amounts of 'BBB' debt, with $445 and $394 billion, respectively.  Meanwhile, the largest concentrations of 'BBB-' debt are found in the utilities sector (with $158 billion) and the high technology sector (with $152 billion) (see chart 3).

Chart 3


Upcoming Maturities

Nearly $1.9 trillion in 'BBB' category U.S. corporate debt is scheduled to mature through 2023.  'BBB' debt represents 58% of the total investment-grade debt set to mature in 2019-2023. Annual maturities for 'BBB' category U.S. corporate debt are scheduled to rise to a peak of $428.5 billion in 2023. Instruments rated 'BBB-' account for the smallest share of 'BBB' category debt maturing over this period, with $585 billion (see chart 4).

Chart 4


Rating Distribution

By issuer count, the majority of investment-grade corporate issuers in the U.S. are rated in the 'BBB' category (which consists of 737 issuers).  Most of these companies are rated at least two notches above speculative grade, at either 'BBB+' or 'BBB'. With 206 issuers, 'BBB-' accounts for the smallest share of the 'BBB' category in the U.S., while the 'BBB+' and 'BBB' ratings together account for 72% of the category (see chart 5).

Chart 5


Related Research

  • Global Corporate Debt Market: The State Of Play In 2019, May 9, 2019
  • 2018 Annual U.S. Corporate Default And Rating Transition Study, May 7, 2019
  • From Underdog To Top Dog: Charting The Growth Of 'BBB', April 26, 2019
  • The U.S. Speculative-Grade Market Can Withstand 'BBB' Downgrades, April 24, 2019

For more information about the data approach used in this study, please see "U.S. Corporate Debt Market: The State Of Play In 2019," published May 17, 2019.

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Global Fixed Income Research:Diane Vazza, Managing Director, New York (1) 212-438-2760;
Nick W Kraemer, FRM, Senior Director, New York (1) 212-438-1698;
Evan M Gunter, Director, New York (1) 212-438-6412;
Research Contributor:Abhik Debnath, CRISIL Global Analytical Center, an S&P Global Ratings affiliate, Mumbai

No content (including ratings, credit-related analyses and data, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (Content) may be modified, reverse engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC or its affiliates (collectively, S&P). The Content shall not be used for any unlawful or unauthorized purposes. S&P and any third-party providers, as well as their directors, officers, shareholders, employees or agents (collectively S&P Parties) do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or availability of the Content. S&P Parties are not responsible for any errors or omissions (negligent or otherwise), regardless of the cause, for the results obtained from the use of the Content, or for the security or maintenance of any data input by the user. The Content is provided on an “as is” basis. S&P PARTIES DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR USE, FREEDOM FROM BUGS, SOFTWARE ERRORS OR DEFECTS, THAT THE CONTENT’S FUNCTIONING WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR THAT THE CONTENT WILL OPERATE WITH ANY SOFTWARE OR HARDWARE CONFIGURATION. In no event shall S&P Parties be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental, exemplary, compensatory, punitive, special or consequential damages, costs, expenses, legal fees, or losses (including, without limitation, lost income or lost profits and opportunity costs or losses caused by negligence) in connection with any use of the Content even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

Credit-related and other analyses, including ratings, and statements in the Content are statements of opinion as of the date they are expressed and not statements of fact. S&P’s opinions, analyses and rating acknowledgment decisions (described below) are not recommendations to purchase, hold, or sell any securities or to make any investment decisions, and do not address the suitability of any security. S&P assumes no obligation to update the Content following publication in any form or format. The Content should not be relied on and is not a substitute for the skill, judgment and experience of the user, its management, employees, advisors and/or clients when making investment and other business decisions. S&P does not act as a fiduciary or an investment advisor except where registered as such. While S&P has obtained information from sources it believes to be reliable, S&P does not perform an audit and undertakes no duty of due diligence or independent verification of any information it receives. Rating-related publications may be published for a variety of reasons that are not necessarily dependent on action by rating committees, including, but not limited to, the publication of a periodic update on a credit rating and related analyses.

To the extent that regulatory authorities allow a rating agency to acknowledge in one jurisdiction a rating issued in another jurisdiction for certain regulatory purposes, S&P reserves the right to assign, withdraw or suspend such acknowledgment at any time and in its sole discretion. S&P Parties disclaim any duty whatsoever arising out of the assignment, withdrawal or suspension of an acknowledgment as well as any liability for any damage alleged to have been suffered on account thereof.

S&P keeps certain activities of its business units separate from each other in order to preserve the independence and objectivity of their respective activities. As a result, certain business units of S&P may have information that is not available to other S&P business units. S&P has established policies and procedures to maintain the confidentiality of certain non-public information received in connection with each analytical process.

S&P may receive compensation for its ratings and certain analyses, normally from issuers or underwriters of securities or from obligors. S&P reserves the right to disseminate its opinions and analyses. S&P's public ratings and analyses are made available on its Web sites, (free of charge), and and (subscription), and may be distributed through other means, including via S&P publications and third-party redistributors. Additional information about our ratings fees is available at

Any Passwords/user IDs issued by S&P to users are single user-dedicated and may ONLY be used by the individual to whom they have been assigned. No sharing of passwords/user IDs and no simultaneous access via the same password/user ID is permitted. To reprint, translate, or use the data or information other than as provided herein, contact S&P Global Ratings, Client Services, 55 Water Street, New York, NY 10041; (1) 212-438-7280 or by e-mail to:

Register with S&P Global Ratings

Register now to access exclusive content, events, tools, and more.

Go Back