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Credit Trends: The Oil And Gas Distress Ratio Hits Historic High On Global Fears And Price Volatility

The U.S. distress ratio--the proportion of speculative-grade issues with option-adjusted composite spreads of more than 1,000 basis points (bps) relative to U.S. Treasuries--more than tripled to 24.9% as of March 16, 2020, from 7.4% as of Dec. 31, 2019. This is the highest since February 2016 when a drop in oil prices precipitated a swath of defaults in the oil and gas sector, though contagion to other sectors was limited. Much of the overall increase can be attributed to the sharp increase of the oil and gas distress ratio to a historical high of 94.3%, surpassing both its previous all-time highs in 2008 and 2016 (see chart 1).

OPEC and non-OPEC producers failed to agree on a massive oil production cut amid the new coronavirus outbreak on March 6, 2020, with Russia reporting that it wasn't prepared to approve reducing production further. Additionally, Saudi Arabia's state-owned producer Saudi Aramco was ordered to raise the maximum production rate to a record high 12.3 million barrels per day, intensifying an oil price war and causing severe dislocation in capital markets. That order has compounded complications from COVID-19.

As a result of both events, the overall number of distressed credits has more than tripled so far in 2020, increasing to 442 from 128 in December 2019, with the majority of new issues from the oil and gas sector, which previously already held the largest percent of distressed bonds. S&P Global Ratings lowered all of its West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price assumptions to $35 per barrel at a time when producers, particularly those in North America, are under tremendous pressure by investors to limit spending, maintain positive free cash flow, and enhance shareholder returns (see "S&P Global Ratings Revises Oil & Gas Assumptions," March 9, 2020). As financing conditions quickly become much less accommodative due to risk aversion from investors uncertain about the global impact of COVID-19, we may continue to see an increase in distressed debt instruments, followed by an increase in defaults (see chart 1).

Chart 1


The Developing Trends

  • Oil prices are expected to remain volatile with WTI crude oil prices plummeting over the last month. Over time, the oil and gas distress ratio and WTI have proved to be inversely related (see chart 4).
  • Although only two defaults have come from the oil and gas sector so far in 2020, we expect that number to rise. The sector led the default tally in both 2018 and 2019 with 17 and 20 defaults, respectively.
  • The oil and gas sector's speculative-grade negative bias (defined as the percentage of issuer credit ratings with negative outlooks or on CreditWatch with negative implications) has been rising and is currently 40%, well above its long-term average of 19.
  • In addition to oil and gas, the metals, mining, and steel and utilities (the majority of which are merchant power companies) sectors experienced the greatest increases in distress ratios, increasing by more than eight times since mid-February.

Other Consumer-Related Sectors Are Also Feeling The Pressure

Other sectors' distress ratios that increased quite dramatically over the last month include aerospace and defense, consumer products, media and entertainment, and transportation. These are the sectors most affected by cuts in discretionary spending and containment measures put in place in the U.S. to combat COVID-19. The utilities (the majority of which are merchant power companies) and metals, mining, and steel sectors also saw huge increases in their distress ratios to 47% and 32%, respectively, largely due to supply chain disruptions and lower oil prices. Ultimately, the length of the economic fallout from the crisis will determine the credit impact across regions and asset classes (see "The Sudden Economic Stop Will Bring Intense Credit Pressure," March 17, 2020).

Chart 2


Chart 3


Chart 4


Table 1

Oil And Gas; Metals, Mining, And Steel; And Utilities Lead With The Highest Distress Ratio
(%) Current negative bias* Long-term average of negative bias* Proportion of 'B-' rated and below new issues (trailing three years)¶ Proportion of 'B-' and below outstanding issuer ratings§
Oil and gas 39.6 19.2 8.6 48.6
Utility and power 14.3 18.7 0.0 14.3
Metals, mining, and steel 15.1 25.1 7.8 20.0
*Negative bias is calculated as the number of U.S. issuers with either a negative outlook or ratings on CreditWatch negative, divided by the total number of U.S. issuers with either positive, negative, or stable (outlook or CreditWatch) implications. The long-term average is taken from 1995 to the present. ¶The proportion of 'B-' rated and lower issues is measured relative to the total number of speculative-grade issues. The statistic is calculated for instruments issued in the U.S. during the trailing three years. §The proportion of 'B-' rated and lower U.S. issuers is measured relative to the total number of U.S. speculative-grade issuers.

Table 2

The Largest Increase In Distress Ratios Came From The Oil And Gas; Utilities; Media And Entertainment; and Metals, Mining And Steel Sectors
Distress ratio (%) Debt-based distress ratio (%) Number of distressed issues Total debt affected (mil. $) Percent change of distressed credits by sector (%)
Aerospace and defense 25 16.5 5 2,875 400
Automotive 13.2 9.8 5 2,050
Banks and brokers 7.1 5.6 1 350
Capital goods 19 17.8 11 5,150 267
Chemicals, packaging, and environmental services 12.1 15.4 12 7,993
Consumer products 12.5 7.8 19 7,391 533
Financial institutions 8.3 10.9 12 4,335 140
Forest products and building baterials 13.1 12.7 8 3,044 167
Health care 18.3 22.2 17 16,892 183
High technology 7.8 8.4 8 5,452 300
Homebuilders/real estate co. 6.9 6.7 5 1,705 67
Insurance 10 9.5 3 1,226 50
Media and entertainment 16 16.3 39 26,195 550
Metals, mining, and steel 31.7 29.1 19 8,629 850
Oil and gas 94.3 96.6 150 71,911 111
Retail/Restaurants 30 34.6 30 15,674 100
Telecommunications 7.4 5.0 9 5,702 (55)
Transportation 27.3 27.2 12 6,358 500
Utility and power 47 46.9 77 40,402 863
Total 24.9 23.4 442 233,335 191
S&P Global defines distress ratio as the number of speculative-grade issues with option-adjusted spreads above 1,000 basis points to the total number of speculative-grade issues. Distribution of distressed credits is defined as the distribution, by sector, within all speculative-grade issues with option-adjusted spreads above 1,000 basis points. Outstanding debt amount associated with distressed issues divided by the total debt outstanding of speculative-grade issues. The distress ratio indicates the level of risk the market has priced into bonds. A rising distress ratio reflects an increased need for capital and often precedes increased defaults when accompanied by a severe and sustained market disruption. Data as of March 16 2020. Source: S&P Global Ratings Research.

Table 3

The Oil And Gas Sector Now Has 150 Distressed Issues Across 64 Issuers
Sector/company Issuer ratings are for a related entity Issue count Outstanding amount (mil. $) Rating Outlook/ CreditWatch
Aerospace and defense

Triumph Group Inc.

2 800.0 B- Stable

Wesco Aircraft Holdings Inc.

3 2075.0 B- Stable

American Axle & Manufacturing Inc.

1 350.0 BB- Stable

Carvana Co.

1 600.0 CCC+ Stable

Midas Intermediate Holdco II LLC

Yes 1 375.0 B- Negative

Tenneco Inc.

2 725.0 B+ Stable
Banks and brokers

Advisor Group Holdings Inc.

1 350.0 B Stable
Capital goods

Ahern Rentals Inc.

1 550.0 B Negative

American Trailer World Corp.

1 670.0 B Stable

Aptim Corp.

1 515.0 CCC+ Negative

Brand Industrial Services Inc.

1 1000.0 B- Stable

Capitol Investment Merger Sub 2 LLC

1 475.0 B Negative

Cleaver-Brooks Inc.

1 375.0 B- Stable

JPW Industries Holdings Corp.

Yes 1 220.0 B Stable

Maxim Crane Works Holdings Capital LLC

1 545.0 B Negative

Titan International Inc.

1 399.7 CCC+ Negative

Tutor Perini Corp.

2 400.0 B Negative
Chemicals, packaging and environmental services

Chemours Co. Co. (The)

2 1657.9 BB- Stable

Foxtrot Escrow Issuer LLC

Yes 1 775.0 B- Negative

FXI Holdings Inc.

1 525.0 B- Negative


1 690.0 B Negative

LSB Industries Inc.

1 435.0 CCC+ Stable

Mauser Packaging Solutions Holding Co.

1 1350.0 B Stable

Nexeo Plastics Holdings Inc.

Yes 1 410.0 B Negative

Plastipak Holdings Inc.

1 500.0 B+ Stable

TPC Group Inc.

1 930.0 B Watch Negative

Trident TPI Holdings Inc.

1 345.0 B- Stable

Venator Materials LLC

Yes 1 375.0 B+ Negative
Consumer products

American Greetings Corp.

1 282.0 B Stable

Arrow BidCo LLC

Yes 1 340.0 B Stable

H-Food Holdings LLC

1 350.0 B- Stable

Kronos Acquisition Holdings Inc.

1 890.0 CCC+ Stable

L Brands Inc.

2 649.5 BB- Stable

Men's Wearhouse Inc. (The)

1 228.2 B Negative

Owens & Minor Inc.

1 275.0 B- Negative

Pyxus International Inc.

2 910.4 CCC Negative

Revlon Consumer Products Corp.

1 450.0 CCC+ Watch Negative

StoneMor Partners L.P.

1 286.4 CCC+ Negative

The GEO Group Inc.

3 900.0 BB- Stable

The Hillman Group Inc.

1 330.0 B- Stable

Tupperware Brands Corp.

1 599.8 B Watch Negative

Vector Group Ltd.

1 550.0 B Stable

Vista Outdoor Inc.

1 350.0 B Stable
Financial institutions

CCF Holdings LLC

1 276.0 CCC+ Negative

CNG Holdings Inc.

1 277.7 B Stable

Curo Group Holdings Corp.

1 690.0 B- Positive

DriveTime Automotive Group Inc.

1 400.0 B- Stable

Enova International Inc.

2 625.0 B Stable

Freedom Mortgage Corp.

3 1150.0 B- Stable

Navient Corp.

1 300.0 BB- Stable

PHH Mortgage Corp.

1 301.5 B- Stable

Populus Financial Group Inc.

1 315.0 B Negative
Forest products and building materials

Apex Tool Group LLC

1 325.0 B- Stable

Cornerstone Building Brands Inc.

1 645.0 B+ Stable

Mercer International Inc.

1 549.8 BB- Stable

Northwest Hardwoods Inc.

2 435.0 CCC Negative

PrimeSource Building Products Inc.

1 275.0 B Stable

Rayonier A.M. Products Inc.

Yes 1 495.6 CCC+ Negative

The New Home Company Inc

1 318.5 B- Negative
Health care

Air Methods Corp.

1 500.0 B- Stable

CHS/Community Health Systems Inc.

Yes 4 5055.4 CCC+ Negative

Global Medical Response Inc.

1 370.0 B Stable

Immucor Inc.

1 390.0 CCC+ Stable

LifePoint Health Inc.

1 265.9 B Positive

MPH Acquisition Holdings LLC

1 1560.0 B+ Stable

Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics SA

Yes 1 300.0 B- Stable

Polaris Intermediate Corp. (d/b/a Multiplan)

1 1300.0 B+ Stable

Quorum Health Corp.

1 400.0 CCC- Negative

Radiology Partners Inc.

Yes 1 710.0 B Negative

Tenet Healthcare Corp.

2 4671.1 B Positive

Tennessee Merger Sub Inc.

Yes 1 865.0 B- Stable

U.S. Renal Care Inc.

1 505.0 B Stable
High technology

Blackboard Inc.

1 250.0 B- Stable

Diebold Nixdorf Inc.

1 400.0 B- Stable

Endurance International Group Inc.

1 350.0 B Stable

Pitney Bowes Inc.

1 375.0 BB+ Stable

Plantronics Inc.

1 500.0 B+ Stable

Rackspace Hosting Inc.

1 1180.0 B Stable

Riverbed Technology Inc.

1 392.4 CCC+ Negative

Solera Issuer Inc.

Yes 1 2005.0 B- Stable
Homebuilders/real estate companies

Five Point Operating Co. L.P.

Yes 1 600.0 B- Stable

K. Hovnanian Enterprises Inc.

Yes 3 354.7 CCC+ Stable

Washington Prime Group L.P.

1 750.0 BB- Negative

Genworth Holdings Inc.

1 698.3 B Watch Developing

One Call Corp.

1 228.0 B- Stable

Unum Group

1 300.0 BBB Stable
Media and entertainment

24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc.

1 500.0 CCC+ Negative

Allen Media LLC

1 300.0 B Stable

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.

2 1070.0 B Watch Negative

AMC Entertainment Inc.

Yes 1 600.0 B Watch Negative

APX Group Inc.

Yes 1 400.0 B- Stable

Buena Vista Gaming Authority

1 205.0 B- Stable

Carlson Travel Inc.

2 665.0 B- Watch Negative

Cengage Learning Inc.

Yes 1 620.0 B- Watch Positive

Cinemark USA Inc.

2 1155.0 BB Watch Negative

Clear Channel Worldwide Holdings Inc.

Yes 1 1901.5 B- Stable

Diamond Resorts International Inc.

1 600.0 CCC+ Negative

Diamond Sports Group LLC

2 4875.0 BB- Positive

Downstream Development Authority

1 270.0 B Negative

Enterprise Development Authority

1 450.0 B- Positive

Exela Intermediate Co. LLC

Yes 1 1000.0 CCC- Negative

Golden Entertainment Inc.

1 375.0 B Stable

Jacobs Entertainment Inc.

1 385.0 B Stable

Life Time Inc.

1 450.0 B Stable

LSC Communications Inc.

1 450.0 CC Watch Negative

McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings LLC

1 400.0 B Stable

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority

1 500.0 B- Stable

Quad/Graphics Inc.

1 243.5 B+ Negative

Realogy Group LLC

1 550.0 B+ Negative

Sabre GLBL Inc.

2 1030.0 BB- Negative

Scientific Games International Inc.

Yes 4 2640.6 B Positive

Staples Inc.

1 1000.0 B+ Negative

Terrier Media Buyer Inc.

1 1015.0 B Stable

Vericast Corp.

1 800.0 CCC+ Negative

Viking Cruises Ltd.

2 1075.0 B+ Watch Negative

WeWork Cos. LLC

1 669.0 B- Negative
Metals, mining, and steel

Alliance Resource Operating Partners L.P.

Yes 1 400.0 BB+ Stable

Century Aluminum Co.

1 250.0 B- Negative

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.

3 1519.6 B Stable

CONSOL Energy Inc.

1 221.6 B+ Stable

Grinding Media Inc.

Yes 1 862.9 B Stable

Hi- Crush Inc.

1 450.0 CCC+ Negative

International Wire Group Inc.

1 78.2 B- Negative

Joseph T. Ryerson & Son Inc.

Yes 1 587.9 B Stable

Natural Resource Partners L.P.

1 300.0 B+ Stable

Peabody Energy Corp.

2 959.0 B+ Stable

SunCoke Energy Partners L.P.

1 650.0 BB- Stable

TMS International Corp.

1 250.0 B+ Stable

United States Steel Corp.

4 2100.0 B Negative
Oil and gas

AMID Finance Corp.

Yes 1 425.0 B Stable

Antero Resources Corp

3 1950.0 B+ Negative

Antero Resources Finance Corp.

Yes 1 952.5 B+ Negative

ARU Finance Corp.

Yes 1 600.0 B Negative

Ascent Resources Utica Holdings LLC

1 975.0 B Negative

Basic Energy Services Inc.

1 300.0 CCC+ Negative

Berry Petroleum Co. LLC

1 350.0 B Stable

Bruin E&P Partners LLC

1 600.0 CCC+ Negative

Calfrac Holdings L.P.

Yes 1 431.8 CCC- Negative

California Resources Corp.

2 244.0 CC Negative

Callon Petroleum Co.

4 1896.0 B+ Stable

Centennial Resource Production LLC

2 900.0 B+ Stable


Yes 1 300.0 B Stable

Chaparral Energy Inc.

1 300.0 CCC+ Negative

Chesapeake Energy Corp.

8 4237.8 CCC Negative

CNX Resources Corp.

2 1394.3 B+ Negative

Comstock Resources Inc.

1 850.0 B Negative

CrownRock LP

1 1185.0 B+ Stable

Denbury Resources Inc.

7 1864.3 CCC+ Negative

Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.

4 2000.0 CCC+ Stable

Endeavor Energy Resources L.P.

2 1500.0 BB- Stable

Ensco International Inc.

1 112.1 CCC+ Negative

EnVen Energy Corp.

1 325.0 B Negative

EQT Corp.

6 4115.0 BB+ Negative

Extraction Oil & Gas Inc.

2 950.0 B- Negative

Forum Energy Technologies Inc.

1 400.0 B- Negative

FTS International Inc.

2 404.9 CCC+ Negative

Global Marine Inc.

Yes 1 300.0 CCC+ Negative

Gran Tierra Energy Inc.

1 300.0 B+ Stable

Gran Tierra Energy International Holdings Ltd.

Yes 1 300.0 B+ Stable

Great Western Finance Corp.

Yes 1 300.0 B- Stable

Gulfport Energy Corp.

4 1997.5 B Negative

HighPoint Resources Corp.

2 625.0 B Stable

Hilcorp Energy I L.P.

3 1600.0 BB+ Watch Negative

Indigo Natural Resources LLC

1 650.0 B+ Stable

ION Geophysical Corp.

2 127.1 CCC+ Negative

Jonah Energy LLC

1 600.0 CCC+ Negative

KLX Energy Services Holdings Inc.

1 250.0 B- Stable

Kosmos Energy Ltd.

1 600.0 B+ Stable

Laredo Petroleum Inc.

2 1000.0 B+ Negative

Lonestar Resources America Inc.

1 250.0 B- Stable

Matador Resources Co

1 1049.9 B+ Stable

Montage Resources Corp.

1 510.5 B- Stable

Moss Creek Resources Holdings Inc.

2 1200.0 B Stable

Murphy Oil Corp.

7 2828.7 BB+ Stable

Nabors Industries Inc.

6 2470.4 BB- Negative

Nine Energy Service Inc.

1 400.0 B- Stable

Northern Oil and Gas Inc.

1 341.0 B- Stable

Oasis Petroleum Inc.

5 1964.7 B+ Stable

Oceaneering International Inc.

2 800.0 BB Negative

Parsley Energy LLC.

4 2050.0 BB Stable

PDC Energy Inc.

3 1200.0 BB Stable

Pride International Inc.

Yes 1 300.0 CCC+ Negative

QEP Resources Inc.

3 1600.0 B+ Negative

Range Resources Corp.

9 2774.1 BB- Negative


1 617.9 CC Negative

SM Energy Co.

5 2376.8 BB- Stable

Southwestern Energy Co.

4 2274.0 BB Negative

Unit Corp.

1 650.0 CC Negative

Vine Oil & Gas LP

2 880.0 CCC- Negative

W&T Offshore Inc.

1 625.0 B- Stable

Weatherford International LLC

Yes 1 2100.0 B- Negative

Whiting Petroleum Corp.

2 1408.2 CCC+ Negative

WPX Energy Inc.

6 3027.7 BB- Watch Positive

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.

2 1200.0 BB Watch Negative

Beverages & More Inc.

1 190.0 CCC+ Negative

CEC Entertainment Inc.

1 255.0 B- Stable

Conn's Inc.

1 227.0 B Stable

Golden Nugget Inc.

2 2015.0 B Stable

Guitar Center Inc.

2 946.0 CCC Negative

J.C. Penney Co. Inc.

3 822.3 CCC Negative

J.C. Penney Corp. Inc.

3 1288.3 CCC Negative

Michaels Stores Inc.

Yes 1 500.0 B+ Stable

Neiman Marcus Group LTD LLC

5 1914.3 CCC Negative

Party City Holdings Inc.

2 850.0 B Negative

PetSmart Inc.

2 2550.0 B- Stable

Rite Aid Corp.

2 1390.9 CCC+ Stable


1 600.0 B+ Stable

The Fresh Market

1 800.0 CCC Negative

The Neiman Marcus Group LLC

1 125.0 CCC Negative

Consolidated Communications Inc.

Yes 1 472.3 B Negative

Flexential Intermediate Corp.

1 250.0 B- Negative

Gogo Intermediate Holdings LLC

Yes 1 925.0 CCC+ Watch Negative

GTT Communications Inc.

1 575.0 B- Negative

HC2 Holdings Inc.

1 470.0 B- Stable

Intrado Corp.

1 1150.0 B- Negative

Trilogy International Partners LLC

1 350.0 B Stable

Uniti Group Inc.

2 1510.0 CCC- Watch Positive

American Airlines Group Inc.

1 750.0 BB- Watch Negative

Azul Investments LLP

Yes 1 400.0 B+ Stable

Hertz Corp.

5 2750.0 B+ Stable

Kenan Advantage Group Inc.

1 405.0 B Stable

Navios Acquisition Finance (US) Inc.

1 670.0 B- Stable

Navios Logistics Finance (US) Inc.

Yes 1 375.0 B Stable

Voyager Finance Co.

Yes 1 457.9 B+ Stable

XO Management Holding Inc.

1 550.0 B+ Stable
Utility and power

Antero Midstream Finance Corp.

Yes 3 1900.0 B+ Negative

Blue Racer Finance Corp.

Yes 2 1150.0 B+ Stable

Calumet Specialty Products Partners L.P.

3 1225.0 B- Positive

CITGO Holding Inc.

1 1370.0 B- Stable

CITGO Petroleum Corp.

1 650.0 B- Stable

CNX Midstream Partners LP

1 400.0 B+ Negative

Crestwood Midstream Partners L.P.

3 1699.9 BB- Stable

CSI Compressco LP

2 645.9 B- Stable

CVR Energy Inc.

2 1000.0 BB- Stable

CVR Nitrogen Finance Corp.

Yes 1 625.0 B+ Stable

DCP Midstream Operating L.P.

Yes 8 3725.0 BB+ Stable

EnLink Midstream Partners L.P.

3 1600.0 BB+ Stable

Enlink Midstream LLC

1 500.0 BB+ Stable

EQM Midstream Partners LP

5 3500.0 BB Stable

Exterran Energy Solutions L.P.

1 375.0 BB- Stable

Ferrellgas Finance Corp.

Yes 3 1475.0 CCC- Negative

Genesis Energy L.P.

5 2450.0 B+ Stable

NGL Energy Finance Corp.

Yes 3 1446.5 B+ Negative

NuStar Logistics L.P.

Yes 2 750.0 BB- Stable

PBF Finance Corp.

Yes 3 1725.0 BB Stable

PBF Logistics Finance Corp.

Yes 1 524.9 BB- Stable

Ruby Pipeline LLC

1 606.2 BB Watch Negative

Summit Midstream Finance Corp.

Yes 2 800.0 B+ Stable

Talen Energy Supply LLC

6 1230.0 B+ Negative

Tallgrass Energy Partners L.P.

4 2330.0 B+ Stable

Targa Resources Partners LP

8 5223.6 BB Stable

USA Compression Finance Corp.

Yes 2 1475.0 B+ Stable
*Issuer rating used is of a related entity. Data as of March 16, 2020. The list excludes companies with confidential ratings. Source: S&P Global Ratings Research.

Related Research

  • COVID-19 Credit Update: The Sudden Economic Stop Will Bring Intense Credit Pressure, March 17, 2020
  • Metal Price Assumptions: Oil Prices And The Coronavirus Dulls Demand For Most Metals, March 16, 2020
  • Recovery Price Deck Assumptions For Exploration And Production Companies Revised, March 13, 2020
  • Unrestrained Supply Swamps Oil Outlook: S&P Global Ratings Revises Oil & Gas Assumptions, March 9, 2020
  • Frontier Communications Corp. Downgraded To 'CCC-' From 'CCC' On Increased Default Risk; Outlook Negative, Nov. 18, 2019

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Credit Markets Research:Nicole Serino, New York + 1 (212) 438 1396;
Sudeep K Kesh, New York (1) 212-438-7982;
Research Assistants:Sundaram Iyer, Mumbai
Abhik P Debnath, Mumbai

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