Since John Moody devised the first bond ratings more than a century ago, Moody’s rating systems have evolved in response to the increasing depth and breadth of the global capital markets. Much of the innovation in Moody’s rating system is a response to market needs for clarity around the components of credit risk or to demands for finer distinctions in rating classifications.
Understanding credit ratings
As capital markets become increasingly global and interconnected, investors are faced with an extensive and often bewildering choice of investment opportunities. Learn how Moody's ratings and analysis speak to the relative credit risk of debt instruments and securities across industries and asset classes around the globe.
The rating scale
Ratings assigned on Moody’s global long-term and short-term rating scales are forward-looking opinions of the relative credit risks of financial obligations issued by non-financial corporates, financial institutions, structured finance vehicles, project finance vehicles, and public sector entities. The following is a ranking (from highest to lowest) of Moody's long-term and short-term categories.
GLOBAL LONG-TERM RATING SCALE
Moody’s long-term ratings are opinions of the relative credit risk of financial obligations with an original maturity of one year or more. They address the possibility that a financial obligation will not be honored as promised. Such ratings use Moody’s Global Scale and reflect both the likelihood of default and any financial loss suffered in the event of default.
Obligations rated Aaa are judged to be of the highest quality, with minimal risk
Obligations rated Aa are judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk
Obligations rated A are considered upper medium-grade and are subject to low credit risk
Obligations rated Baa are subject to moderate credit risk. They are considered medium-grade and as such may possess speculative characteristics.
Obligations rated Ba are judged to have speculative elements and are subject to substantial credit risk
Obligations rated B are considered speculative and are subject to high credit risk
Obligations rated Caa are judged to be of poor standing and are subject to very high credit risk
Obligations rated Ca are highly speculative and are likely in, or very near, default, with some prospect of recovery in principal and interest
Obligations rated C are the lowest-rated class of bonds and are typically in default, with little prospect for recovery of principal and interest
Note: Moody’s appends numerical modifiers 1, 2, and 3 to each generic rating classification from Aa through Caa. Themodifier 1 indicates that the obligation ranks in the higher end of its generic rating category; the modifier 2 indicates amid-range ranking; and the modifier 3 indicates a ranking in the lower end of that generic rating category.
global SHORT-term rating scale
Moody's short-term ratings, unlike our long-term ratings, apply to an individual issuer's capacity to repay all short-term obligations rather than to specific short-term borrowing programs.
Issuers (or supporting institutions) rated Prime-1 have a superior ability to repay short-term debt obligations
Issuers (or supporting institutions) rated Prime-2 have a strong ability to repay short-term debt obligations
Issuers (or supporting institutions) rated Prime-3 have an acceptable ability to repay short-term obligations
Issuers (or supporting institutions) rated Not Prime do not fall within any of the Prime rating categories
Note: Canadian issuers rated P-1 or P-2 have their short-term ratings enhanced by the senior-most long-term rating of the issuer, its guarantor or support-provider.
Moody’s rating symbols, rating scales, ratings-related definitions and information about certain other activities of Moody’s Investors Service are contained in Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions publication