The 1990 scorecard on Standard & Poor's Corp.'s ratings of corporate debt issues is in, and it doesn't make pretty reading. S&P reports that downgrades outnumbered upgrades by more than four to one last year. The company lowered a record 768 ratings totaling $510 billion, compared with 419 downgrades totaling $174.4 billion in 1989. At the same time, upgrades declined from 308 with a face value of $168.3 billion in 1989 to 189 and $112.9 billion in 1990.
S&P notes that much of last year's drop in credit quality was attributable to the woes afflicting financial institutions, which suffered 411 downgrades--nearly 10 times the number of upgrades. Some 299 industrial ratings were also downgraded, compared with 99 upgrades. S&P expects the negative trend in corporate ratings to persist in 1991, with "defaults probably reaching record levels."