Thursday, December 13, 2007

Discount Rate Spread Increases

by Bill McBride on 12/13/2007 12:31:00 PM

From the Fed weekly report on commercial paper this morning, here is the discount rate spread:

Discount Rate Spread Click on graph for larger image.

Worse than August.

Worse than 9/11.

UPDATE: A simple explanation of this chart: This is the spread between high and low quality 30 day nonfinancial commercial paper.

What is commercial paper (CP)? This is short term paper - less than 9 months, but usually much shorter duration like 30 days - that is issued by companies to finance short term needs. Many companies issue CP, and for most of these companies the risk of default is close to zero (think companies like GE or Coke). This is the high quality CP. Here is a good description.

Lower rated companies also issues CP and this is the A2/P2 rating. Correction: This doesn't include the Asset Backed CP - that is another category and is even at a higher rate (see commercial paper table).

The spread between the A2/P2 and AA paper shows the concern of default for the A2/P2 paper. Right now the spread is indicating that "fear" is very high. It is actually very rare for CP defaults, but they do happen (see table 5 in the above Fed link).