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 to repay the principal amount on maturity. Fixed-income securities 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.
To invest is to allocate money in the expectation of some benefit in the future.
Interest is payment from a borrower or deposit-taking financial institution to a lender or depositor of an amount above repayment of the principal sum, at a particular rate. It is distinct from a fee which the borrower may pay the lender or some third party. It is also distinct from dividend which is paid by a company to its shareholders (owners) from its profit or reserve, but not at a particular rate decided beforehand, rather on a pro rata basis as a share in the reward gained by risk taking entrepreneurs when the revenue earned exceeds the total costs.
A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions the term specifically excludes financial instruments other than equities and fixed income instruments. In some jurisdictions it includes some instruments that are close to equities and fixed income, e.g., equity warrants. In some countries and languages the term "security" is commonly used in day-to-day parlance to mean any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition.
In order for a company to grow its business, it often must raise money – for example, to finance an acquisition; to buy equipment or land; or to invest in new product development. The terms on which investors will finance the company will depend on the risk profile of the company. The company can give up equity by issuing stock, or can promise to pay regular interest and repay the principal on the loan (bonds or bank loans). Fixed-income securities also trade differently than equities. Whereas equities, such as common stock, trade on exchanges or other established trading venues, many fixed-income securities trade over-the-counter on a principal basis.
The term "fixed" in "fixed income" refers to both the schedule of obligatory payments and the amount. "Fixed income securities" can be distinguished from inflation-indexed bonds, variable-interest rate notes, and the like. If an issuer misses a payment on a fixed income security, the issuer is in default, and depending on the relevant law and the structure of the security, the payees may be able to force the issuer into bankruptcy. In contrast, if a company misses a quarterly dividend to stock (non-fixed-income) shareholders, there is no violation of any payment covenant, and no default.
Daily inflation-indexed bonds are bonds where the principal is indexed to inflation or deflation on a daily basis in terms of the official Daily CPI or monetized daily indexed unit of account like the Unidad de Fomento in Chile and the Real Value unit of Colombia. They are thus designed to hedge the inflation risk of a bond. The first known inflation-indexed bond was issued by the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1780. The market has grown dramatically since the British government began issuing inflation-linked Gilts in 1981. As of 2008, government-issued inflation-linked bonds comprise over $1.5 trillion of the international debt market. The inflation-linked market primarily consists of sovereign bonds, with privately issued inflation-linked bonds constituting a small portion of the market.
In finance, default is failure to meet the legal obligations of a loan, for example when a home buyer fails to make a mortgage payment, or when a corporation or government fails to pay a bond which has reached maturity. A national or sovereign default is the failure or refusal of a government to repay its national debt.
Bankruptcy is a legal status of a person or other entity who cannot repay debts to creditors. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor.
The term fixed income is also applied to a person's income that does not vary materially over time. This can include income derived from fixed-income investments such as bonds and preferred stocks or pensions that guarantee a fixed income. When pensioners or retirees are dependent on their pension as their dominant source of income, the term "fixed income" can also carry the implication that they have relatively limited discretionary income or have little financial freedom to make large or discretionary expenditures.
Preferred stock is a form of stock which may have any combination of features not possessed by common stock including properties of both an equity and a debt instrument, and is generally considered a hybrid instrument. Preferred stocks are senior to common stock, but subordinate to bonds in terms of claim and may have priority over common stock in the payment of dividends and upon liquidation. Terms of the preferred stock are described in the issuing company's articles of association or articles of incorporation.
A pension is a fund into which a sum of money is added during an employee's employment years, and from which payments are drawn to support the person's retirement from work in the form of periodic payments. A pension may be a "defined benefit plan" where a fixed sum is paid regularly to a person, or a "defined contribution plan" under which a fixed sum is invested and then becomes available at retirement age. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is usually paid in regular installments for life after retirement, while the latter is typically paid as a fixed amount after involuntary termination of employment prior to retirement.
Governments issue government bonds in their own currency and sovereign bonds in foreign currencies. State and local governments issue municipal bonds to finance projects or other major spending initiatives. Debt issued by government-backed agencies is called an agency bond. Companies can issue a corporate bond or obtain money from a bank through a corporate loan. Preferred stocks share some of the characteristics of fixed interest bonds. Securitized bank lending (e.g., credit card debt, car loans or mortgages) can be structured into other types of fixed income products such as ABS – asset-backed securities which can be traded on exchanges just like corporate and government bonds.
A government bond or sovereign bond is a bond issued by a national government, generally with a promise to pay periodic interest payments and to repay the face value on the maturity date. Government bonds are usually denominated in the country's own currency, in which case the government cannot be forced to default, although it may choose to do so. If a government is close to default on its debt the media often refer to this as a sovereign debt crisis.
A municipal bond, commonly known as a Muni Bond, is a bond issued by a local government or territory, or one of their agencies. It is generally used to finance public projects such as roads, schools, airports and seaports, and infrastructure-related repairs. The term municipal bond is commonly used in the United States, which has the largest market of such trade-able securities in the world. As of 2011, the municipal bond market was valued at $3.7 trillion. Potential issuers of municipal bonds include states, cities, counties, redevelopment agencies, special-purpose districts, school districts, public utility districts, publicly owned airports and seaports, and other governmental entities at or below the state level having more than a de minimis amount of one of the three sovereign powers: the power of taxation, the power of eminent domain or the police power.
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.
Some of the terminology used in connection with these investments is:
Issuer is a legal entity that develops, registers and sells securities for the purpose of financing its operations.
Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value. For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.
A coupon payment on a bond is the annual interest payment that the bondholder receives from the bond's issue date until it matures.
Investors in fixed-income securities are typically looking for a constant and secure return on their investment. For example, a retired person might like to receive a regular dependable payment to live on like gratuity, but not consume principal. This person can buy a bond with their money, and use the coupon payment (the interest) as that regular dependable payment. When the bond matures or is refinanced, the person will have their money returned to them. The major investors in fixed-income securities are institutional investors, such as pension plans, mutual funds, insurance companies and others.
The main number which is used to assess the value of the bond is the gross redemption yield. This is defined such that if all future interest and principal repayments are discounted back to the present, at an interest rate equal to the gross redemption yield (gross means pre-tax), then the discounted value is equal to the current market price of the bond (or the initial issue price if the bond is just being launched). Fixed income investments such as bonds and loans are generally priced as a credit spread above a low-risk reference rate, such as LIBOR or U.S. or German Government Bonds of the same duration. For example, if a 30-year mortgage denominated in US dollars has a gross redemption yield of 5% per annum and 30 year US Treasury Bonds have a gross redemption yield of 3% per annum (referred to as the risk free yield), the credit spread is 2% per annum (sometimes quoted as 200 basis points). The credit spread reflects the risk of default. Risk free interest rates are determined by market forces and vary over time, based on a variety of factors, such as current short-term interest rates, e.g. base rates set by central banks such as the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England in the UK, and the Euro Zone ECB. If the coupon on the bond is lower than the yield, then its price will be below the par value, and vice versa.
In buying a bond, one is buying a set of cash flows, which are discounted according to the buyer's perception of how interest and exchange rates will move over its life.
Supply and demand affect prices, especially in the case of market participants who are constrained in the investments they make. Insurance companies and pension funds usually have long term liabilities that they wish to hedge, which requires low risk, predictable cash flows, such as long dated government bonds.
Some fixed-income securities, such as mortgage-backed securities, have unique characteristics, such as prepayments, which impact their pricing.
There are also inflation-indexed bonds, fixed-income securities linked to a specific price index. The most common examples are US Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and UK Index Linked Gilts. The interest and principal repayments under this type of bond are adjusted in line with a Consumer Price Index (in the US this is the CPI-U for urban consumers). This means that these bonds are guaranteed to outperform the inflation rate (unless (a) the market price has increased so that the "real" yield is negative, which is the case in 2012 for many such UK bonds, or (b) the government or other issuer defaults on the bond). This allows investors of all types to preserve the purchasing power of their money even at times of high inflation. For example, assuming 3.88% inflation over the course of 1 year (just about the 56 year average inflation rate, through most of 2006), and a real yield of 2.61% (the fixed US Treasury real yield on October 19, 2006, for a 5 yr TIPS), the adjusted principal of the fixed income would rise from 100 to 103.88 and then the real yield would be applied to the adjusted principal, meaning 103.88 x 1.0261, which equals 106.5913; giving a total return of 6.5913%. TIPS moderately outperform conventional US Treasuries, which yielded just 5.05% for a 1 yr bill on October 19, 2006.
Fixed income derivatives include interest rate derivatives and credit derivatives. Often inflation derivatives are also included into this definition. There is a wide range of fixed income derivative products: options, swaps, futures contracts as well as forward contracts. The most widely traded kinds are:
Fixed income securities have risks that may include but are not limited to the following, many of which are synonymous, mutually exclusive, or related:
In economics and finance, arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets: striking a combination of matching deals that capitalize upon the imbalance, the profit being the difference between the market prices. When used by academics, an arbitrage is a transaction that involves no negative cash flow at any probabilistic or temporal state and a positive cash flow in at least one state; in simple terms, it is the possibility of a risk-free profit after transaction costs. For example, an arbitrage opportunity is present when there is the opportunity to instantaneously buy something for a low price and sell it for a higher price.
In finance, a high-yield bond is a bond that is rated below investment grade. These bonds have a higher risk of default or other adverse credit events, but typically pay higher yields than better quality bonds in order to make them attractive to investors.
In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.
A perpetuity is an annuity that has no end, or a stream of cash payments that continues forever. There are few actual perpetuities in existence. For example, the United Kingdom (UK) government issued them in the past; these were known as consols and were all finally redeemed in 2015. Real estate and preferred stock are among some types of investments that effect the results of a perpetuity, and prices can be established using techniques for valuing a perpetuity. Perpetuities are but one of the time value of money methods for valuing financial assets. Perpetuities are a form of ordinary annuities.
In finance, the yield on a security is the amount of cash that returns to the owners of the security, in the form of interest or dividends received from it. Normally, it does not include the price variations, distinguishing it from the total return. Yield applies to various stated rates of return on stocks, fixed income instruments, and some other investment type insurance products.
A United States Treasury security is a government debt instrument issued by the United States Department of the Treasury to finance government spending as an alternative to taxation. Treasury securities are often referred to simply as Treasuries. Since 2012 the management of government debt has been arranged by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, succeeding the Bureau of the Public Debt.
In finance, the yield curve is a curve showing several yields or interest rates across different contract lengths for a similar debt contract. The curve shows the relation between the interest rate and the time to maturity, known as the "term", of the debt for a given borrower in a given currency. For example, the U.S. dollar interest rates paid on U.S. Treasury securities for various maturities are closely watched by many traders, and are commonly plotted on a graph such as the one on the right which is informally called "the yield curve". More formal mathematical descriptions of this relation are often called the term structure of interest rates.
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 sold to a group of individuals that securitizes, or packages, the loans together into a security that investors can buy. The mortgages of a MBS may be residential or commercial, depending on whether it is an Agency MBS or a Non-Agency MBS; in the United States they may be issued by structures set up by government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or they can be "private-label", issued by structures set up by investment banks. The structure of the MBS may be known as "pass-through", where the interest and principal payments from the borrower or homebuyer pass through it to the MBS holder, or it may be more complex, made up of a pool of other MBSs. Other types of MBS include collateralized mortgage obligations and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).
Structured finance is a sector of finance, specifically Financial law that manages leverage and risk. Strategies may involve legal and corporate restructuring, off balance sheet accounting, or the use of financial instruments.
A collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS). Originally developed as instruments for the corporate debt markets, after 2002 CDOs became vehicles for refinancing mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Like other private label securities backed by assets, a CDO can be thought of as a promise to pay investors in a prescribed sequence, based on the cash flow the CDO collects from the pool of bonds or other assets it owns. Distinctively, CDO credit risk is typically assessed based on a PD derived from ratings on those bonds or assets. The CDO is "sliced" into "tranches", which "catch" the cash flow of interest and principal payments in sequence based on seniority. If some loans default and the cash collected by the CDO is insufficient to pay all of its investors, those in the lowest, most "junior" tranches suffer losses first. The last to lose payment from default are the safest, most senior tranches. Consequently, coupon payments vary by tranche with the safest/most senior tranches receiving the lowest rates and the lowest tranches receiving the highest rates to compensate for higher default risk. As an example, a CDO might issue the following tranches in order of safeness: Senior AAA ; Junior AAA; AA; A; BBB; Residual.
A credit linked note (CLN) is a form of funded credit derivative. It is structured as a security with an embedded credit default swap allowing the issuer to transfer a specific credit risk to credit investors. The issuer is not obligated to repay the debt if a specified event occurs. This eliminates a third-party insurance provider.
In finance, a bond option is an option to buy or sell a bond at a certain price on or before the option expiry date. These instruments are typically traded OTC.
Fixed income analysis is the valuation of fixed income or debt securities, and the analysis of their interest rate risk, credit risk, and likely price behavior in hedging portfolios. The analyst might conclude to buy, sell, hold, hedge or stay out of 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.
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.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to finance:
In finance, inflation derivative refers to an over-the-counter and exchange-traded derivative that is used to transfer inflation risk from one counterparty to another. See Exotic derivatives.
Fixed-Income Relative-Value Investing (FI-RV) is a hedge fund investment strategy made popular by the failed hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. FI-RV Investors most commonly exploit interest-rate anomalies in the large, liquid markets of North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim. The financial instruments traded include government bonds, interest rate swaps and futures contracts.