In finance, a bond is a type of security under which the issuer (debtor) owes the holder (creditor) a debt, and is obliged – depending on the terms – to repay the principal (i.e. amount borrowed) of the bond at the maturity date as well as interest (called the coupon) over a specified amount of time. The interest is usually payable at fixed intervals: semiannual, annual, and less often at other periods. Thus, a bond is a form of loan or IOU. Bonds provide the borrower with external funds to finance long-term investments or, in the case of government bonds, to finance current expenditure.
Bonds and stocks are both securities, but the major difference between the two is that (capital) stockholders have an equity stake in a company (i.e. they are owners), whereas bondholders have a creditor stake in a company (i.e. they are lenders). As creditors, bondholders have priority over stockholders. This means they will be repaid in advance of stockholders, but will rank behind secured creditors, in the event of bankruptcy.Another difference is that bonds usually have a defined term, or maturity, after which the bond is redeemed, whereas stocks typically remain outstanding indefinitely. An exception is an irredeemable bond, which is a perpetuity, that is, a bond with no maturity. Certificates of deposit (CDs) or short-term commercial paper are classified as money market instruments and not bonds: the main difference is the length of the term of the instrument.
The most common forms include municipal, corporate, and government bonds. Very often the bond is negotiable, that is, the ownership of the instrument can be transferred in the secondary market. This means that once the transfer agents at the bank medallion-stamp the bond, it is highly liquid on the secondary market.The price of a bond in the secondary market may differ substantially from the principal due to various factors in bond valuation.
In English, the word "bond" relates to the etymology of "bind". The use of the word "bond" in this sense of an "instrument binding one to pay a sum to another" dates from at least the 1590s.
Bonds are issued by public authorities, credit institutions, companies and supranational institutions in the primary markets. The most common process for issuing bonds is through underwriting. When a bond issue is underwritten, one or more securities firms or banks, forming a syndicate, buy the entire issue of bonds from the issuer and resell them to investors. The security firm takes the risk of being unable to sell on the issue to end investors. Primary issuance is arranged by bookrunners who arrange the bond issue, have direct contact with investors and act as advisers to the bond issuer in terms of timing and price of the bond issue. The bookrunner is listed first among all underwriters participating in the issuance in the tombstone ads commonly used to announce bonds to the public. The bookrunners' willingness to underwrite must be discussed prior to any decision on the terms of the bond issue as there may be limited demand for the bonds.
In contrast, government bonds are usually issued in an auction. In some cases, both members of the public and banks may bid for bonds. In other cases, only market makers may bid for bonds. The overall rate of return on the bond depends on both the terms of the bond and the price paid.The terms of the bond, such as the coupon, are fixed in advance and the price is determined by the market.
In the case of an underwritten bond, the underwriters will charge a fee for underwriting. An alternative process for bond issuance, which is commonly used for smaller issues and avoids this cost, is the private placement bond. Bonds sold directly to buyers may not be tradeable in the bond market.
Historically, an alternative practice of issuance was for the borrowing government authority to issue bonds over a period of time, usually at a fixed price, with volumes sold on a particular day dependent on market conditions. This was called a tap issue or bond tap.
Nominal, principal, par, or face amount is the amount on which the issuer pays interest, and which, most commonly, has to be repaid at the end of the term. Some structured bonds can have a redemption amount which is different from the face amount and can be linked to the performance of particular assets.
The issuer is obligated to repay the nominal amount on the maturity date. As long as all due payments have been made, the issuer has no further obligations to the bond holders after the maturity date. The length of time until the maturity date is often referred to as the term or tenor or maturity of a bond. The maturity can be any length of time, although debt securities with a term of less than one year are generally designated money market instruments rather than bonds. Most bonds have a term shorter than 30 years. Some bonds have been issued with terms of 50 years or more, and historically there have been some issues with no maturity date (irredeemable). In the market for United States Treasury securities, there are four categories of bond maturities:
The coupon is the interest rate that the issuer pays to the holder. For fixed rate bonds, the coupon is fixed throughout the life of the bond. For floating rate notes, the coupon varies throughout the life of the bond and is based on the movement of a money market reference rate (often LIBOR).
Historically, coupons were physical attachments to the paper bond certificates, with each coupon representing an interest payment. On the interest due date, the bondholder would hand in the coupon to a bank in exchange for the interest payment. Today, interest payments are almost always paid electronically. Interest can be paid at different frequencies: generally semi-annual (every 6 months) or annual.
The yield is the rate of return received from investing in the bond. It usually refers to one of the following:
The quality of the issue refers to the probability that the bondholders will receive the amounts promised at the due dates. In other words, credit quality tells investors how likely the borrower is going to default. This will depend on a wide range of factors. High-yield bonds are bonds that are rated below investment grade by the credit rating agencies. As these bonds are riskier than investment grade bonds, investors expect to earn a higher yield. These bonds are also called junk bonds.
The market price of a tradable bond will be influenced, among other factors, by the amounts, currency and timing of the interest payments and capital repayment due, the quality of the bond, and the available redemption yield of other comparable bonds which can be traded in the markets.
The price can be quoted as clean or dirty. "Dirty" includes the present value of all future cash flows, including accrued interest, and is most often used in Europe. "Clean" does not include accrued interest, and is most often used in the U.S.
The issue price at which investors buy the bonds when they are first issued will typically be approximately equal to the nominal amount. The net proceeds that the issuer receives are thus the issue price, less issuance fees. The market price of the bond will vary over its life: it may trade at a premium (above par, usually because market interest rates have fallen since issue), or at a discount (price below par, if market rates have risen or there is a high probability of default on the bond).
Bonds can be categorised in several ways, such as the type of issuer, the currency, the term of the bond (length of time to maturity) and the conditions applying to the bond. The following descriptions are not mutually exclusive, and more than one of them may apply to a particular bond:
The nature of the issuer will affect the security (certainty of receiving the contracted payments) offered by the bond, and sometimes the tax treatment.
Some companies, banks, governments, and other sovereign entities may decide to issue bonds in foreign currencies as the foreign currency may appear to potential investors to be more stable and predictable than their domestic currency. Issuing bonds denominated in foreign currencies also gives issuers the ability to access investment capital available in foreign markets.
A downside is that the government loses the option to reduce its bond liabilities by inflating its domestic currency.
The proceeds from the issuance of these bonds can be used by companies to break into foreign markets, or can be converted into the issuing company's local currency to be used on existing operations through the use of foreign exchange swap hedges. Foreign issuer bonds can also be used to hedge foreign exchange rate risk. Some foreign issuer bonds are called by their nicknames, such as the "samurai bond". These can be issued by foreign issuers looking to diversify their investor base away from domestic markets. These bond issues are generally governed by the law of the market of issuance, e.g., a samurai bond, issued by an investor based in Europe, will be governed by Japanese law. Not all of the following bonds are restricted for purchase by investors in the market of issuance.
The market price of a bond is the present value of all expected future interest and principal payments of the bond, here discounted at the bond's yield to maturity (i.e. rate of return). That relationship is the definition of the redemption yield on the bond, which is likely to be close to the current market interest rate for other bonds with similar characteristics, as otherwise there would be arbitrage opportunities. The yield and price of a bond are inversely related so that when market interest rates rise, bond prices fall and vice versa. For a discussion of the mathematics see Bond valuation.
The bond's market price is usually expressed as a percentage of nominal value: 100% of face value, "at par", corresponds to a price of 100; prices can be above par (bond is priced at greater than 100), which is called trading at a premium, or below par (bond is priced at less than 100), which is called trading at a discount. The market price of a bond may be quoted including the accrued interest since the last coupon date. (Some bond markets include accrued interest in the trading price and others add it on separately when settlement is made.) The price including accrued interest is known as the "full" or "dirty price". (See also Accrual bond.) The price excluding accrued interest is known as the "flat" or "clean price".
Most government bonds are denominated in units of $1000 in the United States, or in units of £100 in the United Kingdom. Hence, a deep discount US bond, selling at a price of 75.26, indicates a selling price of $752.60 per bond sold. (Often, in the US, bond prices are quoted in points and thirty-seconds of a point, rather than in decimal form.) Some short-term bonds, such as the U.S. Treasury bill, are always issued at a discount, and pay par amount at maturity rather than paying coupons. This is called a discount bond.
Although bonds are not necessarily issued at par (100% of face value, corresponding to a price of 100), their prices will move towards par as they approach maturity (if the market expects the maturity payment to be made in full and on time) as this is the price the issuer will pay to redeem the bond. This is referred to as "pull to par". At the time of issue of the bond, the coupon paid, and other conditions of the bond, will have been influenced by a variety of factors, such as current market interest rates, the length of the term and the creditworthiness of the issuer. These factors are likely to change over time, so the market price of a bond will vary after it is issued. (The position is a bit more complicated for inflation-linked bonds.)
The interest payment ("coupon payment") divided by the current price of the bond is called the current yield (this is the nominal yield multiplied by the par value and divided by the price). There are other yield measures that exist such as the yield to first call, yield to worst, yield to first par call, yield to put, cash flow yield and yield to maturity. The relationship between yield and term to maturity (or alternatively between yield and the weighted mean term allowing for both interest and capital repayment) for otherwise identical bonds derives the yield curve, a graph plotting this relationship.
If the bond includes embedded options, the valuation is more difficult and combines option pricing with discounting. Depending on the type of option, the option price as calculated is either added to or subtracted from the price of the "straight" portion. See further under Bond option § Embedded options. This total is then the value of the bond. More sophisticated lattice- or simulation-based techniques may (also) be employed.
Bond markets, unlike stock or share markets, sometimes do not have a centralized exchange or trading system. Rather, in most developed bond markets such as the U.S., Japan and western Europe, bonds trade in decentralized, dealer-based over-the-counter markets. In such a market, liquidity is provided by dealers and other market participants committing risk capital to trading activity. In the bond market, when an investor buys or sells a bond, the counterparty to the trade is almost always a bank or securities firm acting as a dealer. In some cases, when a dealer buys a bond from an investor, the dealer carries the bond "in inventory", i.e. holds it for their own account. The dealer is then subject to risks of price fluctuation. In other cases, the dealer immediately resells the bond to another investor.
Bond markets can also differ from stock markets in that, in some markets, investors sometimes do not pay brokerage commissions to dealers with whom they buy or sell bonds. Rather, the dealers earn revenue by means of the spread, or difference, between the price at which the dealer buys a bond from one investor—the "bid" price—and the price at which he or she sells the same bond to another investor—the "ask" or "offer" price. The bid/offer spread represents the total transaction cost associated with transferring a bond from one investor to another.
Bonds are bought and traded mostly by institutions like central banks, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, and banks. Insurance companies and pension funds have liabilities which essentially include fixed amounts payable on predetermined dates. They buy the bonds to match their liabilities, and may be compelled by law to do this. Most individuals who want to own bonds do so through bond funds. Still, in the U.S., nearly 10% of all bonds outstanding are held directly by households.
The volatility of bonds (especially short and medium dated bonds) is lower than that of equities (stocks). Thus, bonds are generally viewed as safer investments than stocks, but this perception is only partially correct. Bonds do suffer from less day-to-day volatility than stocks, and bonds' interest payments are sometimes higher than the general level of dividend payments. Bonds are often liquid – it is often fairly easy for an institution to sell a large quantity of bonds without affecting the price much, which may be more difficult for equities – and the comparative certainty of a fixed interest payment twice a year and a fixed lump sum at maturity is attractive. Bondholders also enjoy a measure of legal protection: under the law of most countries, if a company goes bankrupt, its bondholders will often receive some money back (the recovery amount), whereas the company's equity stock often ends up valueless. However, bonds can also be risky but less risky than stocks:
Bonds are also subject to various other risks such as call and prepayment risk, credit risk, reinvestment risk, liquidity risk, event risk, exchange rate risk, volatility risk, inflation risk, sovereign risk and yield curve risk. Again, some of these will only affect certain classes of investors.
Price changes in a bond will immediately affect mutual funds that hold these bonds. If the value of the bonds in their trading portfolio falls, the value of the portfolio also falls. This can be damaging for professional investors such as banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers (irrespective of whether the value is immediately "marked to market" or not). If there is any chance a holder of individual bonds may need to sell their bonds and "cash out", interest rate risk could become a real problem, conversely, bonds' market prices would increase if the prevailing interest rate were to drop, as it did from 2001 through 2003. One way to quantify the interest rate risk on a bond is in terms of its duration. Efforts to control this risk are called immunization or hedging.
There is no guarantee of how much money will remain to repay bondholders. As an example, after an accounting scandal and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the giant telecommunications company Worldcom, in 2004 its bondholders ended up being paid 35.7 cents on the dollar.In a bankruptcy involving reorganization or recapitalization, as opposed to liquidation, bondholders may end up having the value of their bonds reduced, often through an exchange for a smaller number of newly issued bonds.
A number of bond indices exist for the purposes of managing portfolios and measuring performance, similar to the S&P 500 or Russell Indexes for stocks. The most common American benchmarks are the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate (ex Lehman Aggregate), Citigroup BIG and Merrill Lynch Domestic Master. Most indices are parts of families of broader indices that can be used to measure global bond portfolios, or may be further subdivided by maturity or sector for managing specialized portfolios.
A zero coupon bond is a bond in which the face value is repaid at the time of maturity. Unlike regular bonds, it does not make periodic interest payments or have so-called coupons, hence the term zero-coupon bond. When the bond reaches maturity, its investor receives its par value. Examples of zero-coupon bonds include US Treasury bills, US savings bonds, long-term zero-coupon bonds, and any type of coupon bond that has been stripped of its coupons. Zero coupon and deep discount bonds are terms that are used interchangeably.
A government bond or sovereign bond is a debt obligation issued by a national government to support government spending. It generally includes a commitment to pay periodic interest, called coupon payments, and to repay the face value on the maturity date. For example, a bondholder invests $20,000 into a 10-year government bond with a 10% annual coupon; the government would pay the bondholder 10% of the $20,000 each year. At the maturity date the government would give back the original $20,000.
In finance, a convertible bond or convertible note or convertible debt is a type of bond that the holder can convert into a specified number of shares of common stock in the issuing company or cash of equal value. It is a hybrid security with debt- and equity-like features. It originated in the mid-19th century, and was used by early speculators such as Jacob Little and Daniel Drew to counter market cornering.
In finance, the yield on a security is a measure of the ex-ante return to a holder of the security. It is one component of return on an investment, the other component being the change in the market price of the security. It is a measure applied to fixed income securities, common stocks, preferred stocks, convertible stocks and bonds, annuities and real estate investments.
United States Treasury securities, also called Treasuries or Treasurys, are government debt instruments issued by the United States Department of the Treasury to finance government spending as an alternative to taxation. Since 2012, U.S. government debt has been managed by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, succeeding the Bureau of the Public Debt.
The yield to maturity (YTM), book yield or redemption yield of a bond or other fixed-interest security, such as gilts, is an estimate of the total rate of return anticipated to be earned by an investor who buys a bond at a given market price, holds it to maturity, and receives all interest payments and the capital redemption on schedule. It is the (theoretical) internal rate of return : the discount rate at which the present value of all future cash flows from the bond is equal to the current price of the bond. The YTM is often given in terms of Annual Percentage Rate (A.P.R.), but more often market convention is followed. In a number of major markets the convention is to quote annualized yields with semi-annual compounding ; thus, for example, an annual effective yield of 10.25% would be quoted as 10.00%, because 1.05 × 1.05 = 1.1025 and 2 × 5 = 10.
Fixed income refers to any type of investment under which the borrower or issuer is obliged to make payments of a fixed amount on a fixed schedule. For example, the borrower may have to pay interest at a fixed rate once a year and repay the principal amount on maturity. Fixed-income securities — more commonly known as bonds — can be contrasted with equity securities – often referred to as stocks and shares – that create no obligation to pay dividends or any other form of income. Bonds carry a level of legal protections for investors that equity securities do not — in the event of a bankruptcy, bond holders would be repaid after liquidation of assets, whereas shareholders with stock often receive nothing.
Bond valuation is the determination of the fair price of a bond. As with any security or capital investment, the theoretical fair value of a bond is the present value of the stream of cash flows it is expected to generate. Hence, the value of a bond is obtained by discounting the bond's expected cash flows to the present using an appropriate discount rate.
In finance, the duration of a financial asset that consists of fixed cash flows, such as a bond, is the weighted average of the times until those fixed cash flows are received. When the price of an asset is considered as a function of yield, duration also measures the price sensitivity to yield, the rate of change of price with respect to yield, or the percentage change in price for a parallel shift in yields.
A collateralized mortgage obligation (CMO) is a type of complex debt security that repackages and directs the payments of principal and interest from a collateral pool to different types and maturities of securities, thereby meeting investor needs.
The current yield, interest yield, income yield, flat yield, market yield, mark to market yield or running yield is a financial term used in reference to bonds and other fixed-interest securities such as gilts. It is the ratio of the annual interest (coupon) payment and the bond's price:
Floating rate notes (FRNs) are bonds that have a variable coupon, equal to a money market reference rate, like LIBOR or federal funds rate, plus a quoted spread. The spread is a rate that remains constant. Almost all FRNs have quarterly coupons, i.e. they pay out interest every three months. At the beginning of each coupon period, the coupon is calculated by taking the fixing of the reference rate for that day and adding the spread. A typical coupon would look like 3 months USD LIBOR +0.20%.
A mortgage-backed security (MBS) is a type of asset-backed security which is secured by a mortgage or collection of mortgages. The mortgages are aggregated and sold to a group of individuals that securitizes, or packages, the loans together into a security that investors can buy. Bonds securitizing mortgages are usually treated as a separate class, termed residential; another class is commercial, depending on whether the underlying asset is mortgages owned by borrowers or assets for commercial purposes ranging from office space to multi-dwelling buildings.
A corporate bond is a bond issued by a corporation in order to raise financing for a variety of reasons such as to ongoing operations, M&A, or to expand business. The term is usually applied to longer-term debt instruments, with maturity of at least one year. Corporate debt instruments with maturity shorter than one year are referred to as commercial paper.
A callable bond is a type of bond that allows the issuer of the bond to retain the privilege of redeeming the bond at some point before the bond reaches its date of maturity. In other words, on the call date(s), the issuer has the right, but not the obligation, to buy back the bonds from the bond holders at a defined call price. Technically speaking, the bonds are not really bought and held by the issuer but are instead cancelled immediately.
Fixed-income arbitrage is a group of market-neutral-investment strategies that are designed to take advantage of differences in interest rates between varying fixed-income securities or contracts. Arbitrage in terms of investment strategy, involves buying securities on one market for immediate resale on another market in order to profit from a price discrepancy.
Fixed income analysis is the process of determining the value of a debt security based on an assessment of its risk profile, which can include interest rate risk, risk of the issuer failing to repay the debt, market supply and demand for the security, call provisions and macroeconomic considerations affecting its value in the future. It also addresses the likely price behavior in hedging portfolios. Based on such an analysis, a fixed income analyst tries to reach a conclusion as to whether to buy, sell, hold, hedge or avoid the particular security.
The bond market is a financial market where participants can issue new debt, known as the primary market, or buy and sell debt securities, known as the secondary market.This is usually in the form of bonds, but it may include notes, bills, and so on for public and private expenditures. The bond market has largely been dominated by the United States, which accounts for about 39% of the market. As of 2021, the size of the bond market is estimated to be at $119 trillion worldwide and $46 trillion for the US market, according to Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).
A bond fund or debt fund is a fund that invests in bonds, or other debt securities. Bond funds can be contrasted with stock funds and money funds. Bond funds typically pay periodic dividends that include interest payments on the fund's underlying securities plus periodic realized capital appreciation. Bond funds typically pay higher dividends than CDs and money market accounts. Most bond funds pay out dividends more frequently than individual bonds.
An asset swap refers to an exchange of tangible for intangible assets, in accountancy, or, in finance, to the exchange of the flow of payments from a given security for a different set of cash flows.