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1 May 1997 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 53, Issue 3

The Effect of Bond-Rating Changes on Bond Price Performance

  1. Gailen Hite
  2. Arthur Warga

The price reaction of publicly traded industrial bonds to Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's bond-rating changes is investigated using a database of month-end trader quotes from Lehman Brothers for March 1985 through March 1995. All Standard & Poor's and Moody's rating changes are studied in a period from up to 12 months before the rating change to 12 months after. A unique feature of this study is the use of a data set containing recent firm-specific information that also provides a long event window. Downgraded firms reveal a significant announcement effect in both the announcement month and preannouncement period. The magnitude of downgrading effects increases dramatically as the sample moves from investment-grade to non-investment-grade firms. Samples that are restricted to rating changes that are not preceded by any rerating within six months reveal that the market reacts reliably as much as six months before an event. Upgrade effects are much weaker in magnitude and significance.

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