Credit Risk

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What is 'Credit Risk'

Credit risk is the risk of loss of principal or loss of a financial reward stemming from a borrower's failure to repay a loan or otherwise meet a contractual obligation. Credit risk arises whenever a borrower is expecting to use future cash flows to pay a current debt. Investors are compensated for assuming credit risk by way of interest payments from the borrower or issuer of a debt obligation.

Credit risk is closely tied to the potential return of an investment, the most notable being that the yields on bonds correlate strongly to their perceived credit risk.

BREAKING DOWN 'Credit Risk'

The higher the perceived credit risk, the higher the rate of interest that investors will demand for lending their capital. Credit risks are calculated based on the borrowers' overall ability to repay. This calculation includes the borrowers' collateral assets, revenue-generating ability and taxing authority (such as for government and municipal bonds).

Credit risks are a vital component of fixed-income investing, which is why ratings agencies such as S&P, Moody's and Fitch evaluate the credit risks of thousands of corporate issuers and municipalities on an ongoing basis.

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