Standard and Poors Ratings – Definition

Cite this article as:"Standard and Poors Ratings – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated April 26, 2019, last accessed May 30, 2020,


Standard & Poor’s Ratings

Standard & Poor’s, known as S&P Global in the corporate world, facilitates credit ratings based on investments in bonds, and a lot more. Known for ascertaining over 1 million indices in share market, it offers personalized analysis with the help of the data and insights available.

A Little More on Standard and Poor’s Ratings

Standard and Poor, operating as two commercial organizations, got merged in the year 1941. One of the organization’s founders named Henry Varnum Poor was more interested in offering premium quality information to investors. And therefore, his book “History of Railroads and Canals of the United States’ that got published in 1860, aimed to give an in-depth overview of the corporate world to the general public.

The S&P rating refers to a credit score that throws light on how quickly a company, region, or nation can repay the debt, or to assess it creditworthiness. However, these ratings mere pieces of information, and don’t recommend investors to invest in a specific investment or bond. Also, they evaluate the creditworthiness of 5 types of bonds varying in the context of risks and returns. If you are iffy about investing in a certain bond, a nation’s economy, or foreign trade scenarios, S&P ratings can be a great help.

Let’s have a look at how S&P analysts formulate ratings. First of all, they collect data from published annual reports, news articles, etc. They also conduct interviews with the management of the organization that they’ll be rating. Then, they take a sneak-peek into organization’s financial and operational performance, and further assess how effectively the company is following and executing its risk management strategies.

S&P brought some changes in its policy of selling reports to investors at the time copy machines entered the market. They took this step in order to prevent the crucial reports from reaching out to general public. S&P began charging money from the companies it evaluated. However, they have been criticized for this change. Many believe that it gives a heads up to customers who pay it well.

A bond with a higher letter grade enjoys the privilege of paying lower interest rate than the one with a lower one. They are less risky, and provides lower returns. Every company has the objective of reaching that high letter grade in order to finance themselves and pay lower rates of interest. Short-term loans are eligible for S&P ratings. It also proffers outlook ratings (positive, negative, neutral or developing) for a period ranging between 6 months to 2 years.

S&P offers ratings for over 130 nations and ascertains if a specific nation will be able to repay its sovereign borrowings/debt or not. It analyses its ratings on the following factors:

  • It checks how stable the government of that nation is, and if they follow regulatory policies.
  • It analyzes the economic strength of the nation, and assesses how likely it is for the country to grow.
  • It ascertains foreign direct investment of the nation.
  • Also, it identifies if the central bank of country depends on its government, and follows an effective monetary policy.

Many critics believe that many rating companies such as S&P were responsible for the major financial crisis in 2008. S&P resisted offering a low grade to its clients. The deregulation policy of financial sector was the reason behind this crisis. This gave financial institutions the authority to indulge in hedging activities, and indulge in excessive subprime lending.

In the year 2011, S&P demoted the US Treasury debt from AAA to AA+. S&P was of the view that the debt reduction plan was not strong enough. This demotion in credit downgrade reduced the Dow steadily in August 2011. Because of the lesser revenues generated and increased expenditures during recession, the US debt further increased 40%.

References for Standard & Poors Ratings

Academic Research on Standard & Poor’s Ratings

•    Testing the differences between the determinants of moody’s and standard & poor’s ratings an application of smooth simulated maximum likelihood estimation, Moon, C. G., & Stotsky, J. G. (1993). Journal of applied econometrics, 8(1), 51-69.

•    A comparative analysis of Moody’s and standard and poor’s municipal bond ratings, Morton, T. G. (1975). Review of Financial Economics, 11(2), 74.

•    An alternative approach to predicting corporate bond ratings, West, R. R. (1970). Journal of Accounting Research, 118-125.

•    Do Investors Look Beyond Insured Triple–A Rating? An Analysis of Standard & Poor’s Underlying Ratings, Peng, J. (2002). Public Budgeting & Finance, 22(3), 115-131.

•    A multivariate analysis of industrial bond ratings, Pinches, G. E., & Mingo, K. A. (1973). The journal of Finance, 28(1), 1-18.

•    Split ratings and the pricing of credit risk, Cole, K. (1997). Journal of Fixed Income, 6, 72-82.

•    Industrial bond ratings: A new look, Belkaoui, A. (1980). Financial Management, 44-51.

•    Fiscal institutions, credit ratings, and borrowing costs, Johnson, C. L., & Kriz, K. A. (2005). Public Budgeting & Finance, 25(1), 84-103.

•    An analysis of the determinants of sovereign ratings, Bissoondoyal-Bheenick, E. (2005). Global Finance Journal, 15(3), 251-280.

•    Rating timing differences between the two leading agencies: Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s, Bissoondoyal-Bheenick, E. (2004). Emerging Markets Review, 5(3), 361-378.

•    Bond ratings, bond yields and financial regulation: Some findings, West, R. R. (1973). The Journal of Law and Economics, 16(1), 159


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