California is a high risk for credit default, according to analyst

Let's look at the bright side: California is more creditworthy than Kazakhstan, according to one private analysis. But not by much.

A London financial firm named CMA puts California in dubious company, ranking it ninth in the world among the 10 governmental entities most likely to default on their financial obligations.

California has a 26.75 percent chance of defaulting over five years, according to CMA. The rankings are based on the prices for credit-default swaps, which are insurance-like products that would pay bondholders in the event of a default.

Others on the list include Kazakhstan, Latvia and Iceland, the latter of which essentially went bankrupt last fall in the global financial meltdown. The nation most likely to default is Argentina, with a nearly 74 percent chance, according to CMA.

CMA is a market-information firm specializing in credit-default pricing; it's a subsidiary of the conglomerate that owns the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Trade.

The firm's rankings were dismissed out of hand by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who noted that the state has never even been late on a bond payment. "It's ludicrous," said his spokesman Tom Dresslar. "This whole credit-default swap market is a casino."

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