Corporate defaults at new record levels last year, says S&P

This represents the fourth year in a row where default levels have hit record lows. Last year, 220 companies defaulted on $119 billion of debt.

S&P was cautious in its predictions for the year ahead. While stating that default rates peaked in June 2002, and it exepected a "continued, though painfully slow" inprovement in default rates this year, the agency added that "poor credit quality", "a slow economic recovery" and "global uncertainty about war" meant any upturn could be "jeaopardised".

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