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Countries with the Highest Default Risk in 2022

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sovereign debt risk ranking

Countries with the Highest Default Risk in 2022

In May 2022, the South Asian nation of Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt for the first time. The country’s government was given a 30-day grace period to cover $78 million in unpaid interest, but ultimately failed to pay.

Not only does this impact Sri Lanka’s economic future, but it also raises an important question: which other countries are at risk of default?

To find out, we’ve used data from Bloomberg to rank the countries with the highest default risk.

The Sovereign Debt Vulnerability Ranking

Bloomberg’s Sovereign Debt Vulnerability Ranking is a composite measure of a country’s default risk. It’s based on four underlying metrics:

  • Government bond yields (the weighted-average yield of the country’s dollar bonds)
  • 5-year credit default swap (CDS) spread
  • Interest expense as a percentage of GDP
  • Government debt as a percentage of GDP

To better understand this ranking, let’s focus on Ukraine and El Salvador as examples.

CountryRankGovernment Bond
Yield (%)
5Y CDS SpreadInterest Expense
(% of GDP)
Government Debt
(% of GDP)
🇸🇻 El Salvador131.8%3,376 bps
(33.76%)
4.9%82.6%
🇺🇦 Ukraine860.4%10,856 bps
(100.85%)
2.9%49%

1 basis point (bps) = 0.01%

Why are Ukraine’s Bond Yields so High?

Ukraine has high default risk due to its ongoing conflict with Russia. To understand why, consider a scenario where Russia was to assume control of the country. If this happened, it’s possible that Ukraine’s existing debt obligations will never be repaid.

That scenario has prompted a sell-off of Ukrainian government bonds, pushing their value down to nearly 30 cents on the dollar. This means that a bond with face value of $100 could be purchased for $30.

Because yields move in the opposite direction of price, the average yield on these bonds has climbed to a very high 60.4%. As a point of comparison, the yield on a U.S. 10-year government bond is currently 2.9%.

What is a CDS Spread?

Credit default swaps (CDS) are a type of derivative (financial contract) that provides a lender with insurance in the event of a default. The seller of the CDS represents a third party between the lender (investors) and borrower (in this case, governments).

In exchange for receiving coverage, the buyer of a CDS pays a fee known as the spread, which is expressed in basis points (bps). If a CDS has a spread of 300 bps (3%), this means that to insure $100 in debt, the investor must pay $3 per year.

Applying this to Ukraine’s 5-year CDS spread of 10,856 bps (108.56%), an investor would need to pay $108.56 each year to insure $100 in debt. This suggests that the market has very little faith in Ukraine’s ability to avoid default.

Why is El Salvador Ranked Higher?

Despite having lower values in the two metrics discussed above, El Salvador ranks higher than Ukraine because of its larger interest expense and total government debt.

According to the data above, El Salvador has annual interest payments equal to 4.9% of its GDP, which is relatively high. Comparing to the U.S. once more, America’s federal interest costs amounted to 1.6% of GDP in 2020.

When totaled, El Salvador’s outstanding debts are equal to 82.6% of GDP. This is considered high by historical standards, but today it’s actually quite normal.

The next date to watch will be January 2023, as this is when the country’s $800 million sovereign bond reaches maturity. Recent research suggests that if El Salvador were to default, it would experience significant, yet temporary, negative effects.

Another Hot Topic for El Salvador: Bitcoin

In September 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. This means that Bitcoin is recognized by law as a means to settle debts and other obligations.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) criticized this decision in early 2022, urging the country to revoke legal tender status. In hindsight, these warnings were wise, as Bitcoin’s value has fallen by 56% year-to-date.

While this isn’t directly related to El Salvador’s default risk, it does open potential avenues for relief. For instance, large players in the crypto space may be willing to assist the government to keep the concept of “nation-state bitcoin adoption” alive.

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Investor Education

Ranked: The Best Stock Brokers for Investors and Traders

Whether you’re searching for low fees or an easy-to-use trading platform, this clear breakdown can help you find the best stock brokers.

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A heat map scoring the best stock brokers on a variety of categories like research and education; most of the category names and broker names are obscured from view in this preview image.

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The following content is sponsored by StockBrokers.com

Ranked: The Best Stock Brokers for Investors and Traders

Choosing the right online trading platform might seem tricky. There are lots of options, and finding the best stock brokers could require a lot of time and research. Luckily, a team of experts has already done the work for you!

In this graphic from StockBrokers.com, we show how stock brokers performed in a variety of categories so you can make an informed decision.

Breaking Down the Best Stock Brokers

StockBrokers.com analyzed 17 select brokers using actual trading accounts or demo accounts. 

The below table shows the overall scores, with 100% being the highest possible score. It also breaks down ratings in the ease of use, mobile trading, and commissions and fees categories, which have the heaviest weightings in the overall score. 

Stock BrokerOverall Ease
of Use
Mobile
Trading
Commissions
& Fees
Fidelity9910099100
E*TRADE971009990
Charles Schwab971009790
Merrill Edge941009690
Interactive Brokers93809990
Firstrade88809490
tastytrade85908990
Ally Invest85907990
Webull85909190
Robinhood841009090
TradeStation82709090
J.P. Morgan
Self-Directed
Investing
82857990
Vanguard78955690
Tradier77907590
eToro77858790
SoFi Invest74906490
Public.com70856890

Source: StockBrokers.com as of January 23, 2024. The overall score is based on the following category weightings: 25% ease of use, 25% mobile trading apps, 20% Commissions and fees, 10% investment options, 10% research, 5% platforms and tools, 5% education.

Fidelity has the top overall score in 2024, with an excellent app, clear navigation, and low fees. When it comes to fees, Fidelity skips many charges that are common among other brokers. It also doesn’t accept payment for order flow, which is when brokers direct your orders to market centers that pay them a referral fee. 

E*TRADE and Charles Schwab are tied for second place when it comes to the best stock brokers. According to StockBrokers.com, E*TRADE has the best platform for mobile trading. The company offers one app focused on casual investors, and another for beginner to intermediate investors that has a useful—but not overwhelming—number of tools. 

Charles Schwab, on the other hand, boasts the best desktop trading platform where investors can keep track of huge watch lists and follow streaming market news.

How Brokers Bring Additional Value

Apart from giving you the ability to trade stocks online, brokers also offer other perks like trading tools and education. Here’s how the same 17 brokers scored on these types of features.

Stock BrokerInvestment
Options
Research Platform
& Tools
Education
Fidelity969694100
E*TRADE95999396
Charles Schwab971009595
Merrill Edge89989399
Interactive Brokers999910093
Firstrade90877569
tastytrade80559284
Ally Invest89777382
Webull76638858
Robinhood74496273
TradeStation94659170
J.P. Morgan
Self-Directed
Investing
78755791
Vanguard88674868
Tradier76467335
eToro54566653
SoFi Invest60415486
Public.com53444653

Source: StockBrokers.com as of January 23, 2024. The overall score is based on the following category weightings: 25% ease of use, 25% mobile trading apps, 20% Commissions and fees, 10% investment options, 10% research, 5% platforms and tools, 5% education.

Interactive Brokers holds the title of “best for professional traders” thanks to its wide range of highly customizable tools, investment options, and research. Investors can also trade in foreign markets and hold multiple currencies, for those interested in forex trading.

While not included in overall scores, StockBrokers.com also rated brokers on their customer service through nationwide phone testing. Fidelity and Merrill Edge are the best stock brokers when it comes to customer service. Both companies answered calls in less than a minute on average, and their representatives had high professionalism. 

Picking the Best Brokerage Account

When you’re choosing from a list of the best stock brokers, you’ll want to consider which features are most important to you.

StockBrokers.com offers clear, in-depth reviews and compares brokers on more than 150 different account features and fees. You can also see screenshots of what various pages look like within the trading platforms. 

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See StockBrokers.com’s guide to the best online trading platforms of 2024.

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