We develop a mixed-frequency, tree-based, gradient-boosting model designed to assess the default risk of privately held firms in real time. The model uses data from publicly-traded companies to construct a probability of default (PD) function. This function integrates high-frequency, market-based, aggregate distress signals with low-frequency, firm-level financial ratios, and macroeconomic indicators. When provided with private firms’ financial ratios, the model, which we name signal-knowledge transfer learning model (SKTL), transfers insights gained from 35 thousand publicly-traded firms to more than 4 million private-held ones and performs well as an ordinal measure of privately-held firms’ default risk.

This paper is also published as International Monetary Fund Working Paper 24/115.