Corporate Debt Protection Costs Climb Amid Depression Concern

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Abigail Moses and Shannon D. Harrington
December 3, 2008

The cost of protecting corporate debt from default jumped to a record in Europe and neared a high in the U.S. amid concern that the global recession will sink into a depression.

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Credit-default swaps on a benchmark index tied to below- investment grade companies in Europe reached levels considered distressed for the first time. The cost to protect U.S. leveraged loans from default neared a record, and a benchmark gauge of credit risk tied to investment-grade companies including retailer J.C. Penney Co. and Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum producer, also jumped as a private report showed the nation’s companies last month cut the most jobs in seven years.

“Markets are pricing somewhere between a recession and a depression, and that is what we are faced with,” said Philip Gisdakis, a Munich-based credit strategist at UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest bank. “We are already in a recession. The next economic phase will not be recession, but depression.”

Credit-default swaps on the Markit CDX North America Investment Grade Index of 125 companies in the U.S. and Canada climbed 8 basis points to 267 basis points as of 10:10 a.m. in New York, according to Barclays Capital. The index is at the highest since Nov. 20, when it traded at a record 284 basis points, prices from broker Phoenix Partners Group show.

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