How much economic risk are businesses facing these days? FRED can help us consider what the market is telling us about the level of risk by showing us the yields of various types of corporate bonds. Moody’s business is, in part, to classify corporate bonds according to their risk, and bonds within a rating should have the same level of risk through time. The yields of these bonds may still change, though, because they’re driven mostly by a risk premium (which is different in each risk rating) and the supply and demand of funds. An easy way to properly measure the latter is to take the difference between the yields of two risk ratings. In the graph, we’ve done this for the ratings Aaa and Baa. What remains is the excess risk of Baa over Aaa bonds. Indeed, as the economy becomes riskier, lower-rated bonds will become riskier more quickly than higher-rated bonds. The graph shows that risk today (at the date of this writing) is basically historically normal, if a little elevated compared with previous years. However, it’s nowhere near as risky as it was during the Great Depression, the early 1980s, or the Great Recession.
How this graph was created: Search for and select “Moody’s Baa” and click “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, add a series by searching for “Moody’s Aaa” and apply formula a-b.
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.