Moody's Investors Service last week said it is releasing a data base that tracks how about 95% of the bonds rated by the agency have performed over the years.
Called the Corporate Bond Default Data Base, the information will be available on CD-ROM for $48,000.
Although it has long been possible to track the performance of any corporate bond over the years, Moody's is hoping big investors will be willing to pay to have in one place all of the information on $30 trillion worth of bank, utility, industrial, and other long-term corporate bonds rated by Moody's over the past 27 years.
"Interest in credit risk has grown into a frenzy," said Moody's vice president Lea V. Carty said.
"We hope this record of bond issuers' experience will provide the tremendous amount of information needed to further this interest."
The data base shows what ratings Moody's awarded bonds when first issued, why the bonds were upgraded or downgraded, and how much investors collected if the bonds were in default.
Until to now, the Moody's vice president said, investors could easily measure historic credit performance of bonds, loans, and other kinds of debt only within their own portfolios.
With the data base, a bondholder or lender could look up the history of an unfamiliar company and quickly assess its credit performance.
This information could become particularly valuable if, as many bankers expect, a market for credit derivatives develops. In this market, banks and other institutional investors will be swapping unwanted credit risk between one another.
In anticipation of this market, this spring J.P. Morgan & Co. released a product called CreditMetrics, a system that enables users to quantify the total amount of credit exposure within their portfolios.