U.S. Corporate Bonds
At $2.2 trillion in outstanding debt, the corporate bond market is huge. Bought by institutions and individuals because of their high yield, corporate bonds span the spectrum of maturities and finance just about every aspect of the economy. As such, their credit ratings range from good-as-gold AAA to down-and-out junk. Corporate bonds are generally sold to institutions in very large quantities, although there are certain kinds that are targeted for retail investors.
The Big Picture
Good-as-gold corporate bonds are hard to find. The number of AAA-rated companies has shrunk over the past 30 years.1 In the late 1970s, 58 companies had AAA ratings and accounted for 25 percent of corporate debt. In 2001, only nine ...