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The report traced the health of the bond market all the way back to the 1920s, and finds that the threat of companies defaulting is more stark now than at any point in that stretch of time. It predicted that company defaults will triple this year to about 300, after 101 defaulted last year on more than $280bn of debt.
If the economy deteriorates by even more than expected, the default rate could conceivably mount to around 20pc, Moody's added - meaning around one in five of all non-investment grade issuers default, something which has never happened before. The companies most at risk of default are consumer transport groups, which largely constitute airlines, media companies and car manufacturers.