Warning Signs

Junk Bonds to Set Off New Crisis?

Just in time for President Obama’s reelection campaign: More than $700 billion in risky, high-yield corporate debt will come due in a three-year period starting in 2012. These “junk” bonds will come due in a year when the U.S. will need to borrow $2 trillion to cover its budget deficit—raising fears that businesses will not be able to get new loans, setting off a wave of bankruptcies. The numbers are worrisome: Junk bonds, valued at only $21 billion this year, will mature at a rate of $155 billion in 2012 and $338 billion in 2014. “An avalanche is brewing in 2012 and beyond if companies don’t get out in front of this,” said an officer at Moody’s.