Ba3/BB-: Definition, How Bond Ratings Work, Yields & Risks

What Is Ba3/BB-?

Ba3/BB- is the bond rate given to debt instruments that are generally considered speculative in nature. Ba3 is a long-term bond rating provided by the Moody's credit rating service, while BB- is the parallel rating provided by both the Standard & Poor's and Fitch rating services.

Key Takeaways

  • Ba3/BB- is a credit rating used by Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch for an issued debt instrument (generally a bond) or the issuer of the credit (i.e. company or business) that are below investment grade (i.e. "junk bonds").
  • Moody's uses the Ba3 rating, while S&P and Fitch use BB-.
  • Ba3 falls above the B1 rating and below Ba2, while BB is above B+ and below BB

Ba3/BB- Explained

The credit rating given to fixed income securities provides a measure of the riskiness of the security and the likelihood of the issuer defaulting on the debt. The bond credit rating represents the creditworthiness of corporate or government bonds. Risk-averse investors looking for safe bond investments to avoid the risk of losing their principal investments may opt for government bonds or for investment grade corporate bonds with AAA to Baa3/BBB- ratings.

Bonds that carry a higher risk than investment grade bonds are referred to as junk bonds. Investors demand a higher yield for purchasing these bonds as compensation for taking on a high level of risk. Hence, these bonds are also referred to as high yield bonds. Non-investment grade bonds that are towards the more stable end of the junk-bond rating spectrum, are typically given a credit rating of Ba3/BB- by credit rating agencies Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch Ratings. Although this is the highest rating tier within the high yield bond category, a Ba3/BB- rating indicates a higher level of concern that deteriorating economic conditions and/or company-specific developments could hinder the issuer’s ability to meet its obligations. Ba2/BB is the rating that falls directly above Ba3/BB-, while B1/B+ falls directly below.


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Junk Bond Ratings

A Ba3/BB- credit rating indicates that the bond is somewhat speculative in nature with some exposure to risk. Bonds rated Ba3/BB- provide a yield-to-maturity (YTM) or yield-to-call rate that is well above bonds with higher ratings, especially those issued by the U.S. government, municipalities, and the largest global corporations. However, it is important for investors to realize that this higher rate serves as compensation for investing money in a company or government that may not be financially sound and may result in the loss of one's investment.

The Ba3/BB- rating is usually decided on after analyzing certain factors at play with the issuing entity, such as the strength of the issuer’s balance sheet, ability to service its debt, current business and economic conditions, and outlook on the issuing company’s growth. It is possible for a corporation to be rated as investment grade quality and, after the company’s statistics have been reviewed after a period of time, downgraded to non-investment grade quality. Likewise, a company with a Ba3/BB- rating may be upgraded to investment grade if the business outlook and financial statements reflect strong growth and lower risk.

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