In finance, a bond is a debt security, in which the issuer owes the holders a debt and is obliged to repay the principal and interest (the coupon). Other stipulations may also be attached to the bond issue, such as the obligation for the issuer to provide certain information to the bond holder, or limitations on the behavior of the issuer. Bonds are generally issued for a fixed term (the maturity) longer than one year.


In finance, a bond is a debt security, in which the issuer owes the holders a debt and is obliged to repay the principal and interest (the coupon). Other stipulations may also be attached to the bond issue, such as the obligation for the issuer to provide certain information to the bond holder, or limitations on the behavior of the issuer. Bonds are generally issued for a fixed term (the maturity) longer than one year.

A bond is just a loan, but in the form of a security, although terminology used is rather different. The issuer is equivalent to the borrower, the bond holder to the lender and the coupon to the interest.

Debt securities with a maturity shorter than one year are typically bills, certificates of deposit or commercial paper, and considered money market instruments.

Traditionally, the U.S. Treasury uses the word bond only for their issues with a maturity longer than ten years, and calls issues between one and ten year notes. Elsewhere in the market this distinction has disappeared, and both bonds and notes are used irrespective of the maturity. Market participants use bonds normally for large issues offered to a wide public, and notes rather for smaller issues originally sold to a limited number of investors. There are no clear demarcations.

Bonds and stocks are both securities, but the difference is that stock holders own a part of the issuing company (have an equity stake), whereas bond holders are in essence lenders to the issuer. Also bonds have a definite lifespan, their maturity, whereas stocks may be held indefinitely. An exception is a console bond, which is a perpetuity.

1 Issuers
2 Issuing bonds
3 Features of bonds
4 Types of bond
5 Trading and valuing bonds
5.1 See
6 Investing in bonds
7 Arguments against bonds
9.1 Math


The range of issuers of bonds is very large. Almost any organization could issue bonds, but the underwriting and legal costs can be prohibitive. Regulations to issue bonds are very strict. Issuers are often classified as follows: Supranational agencies, such as the European Investment Bank or the Asian Development Bank issue Supranational bonds.
National Governments issue Government bonds in their own currency. These are often called risk-free bonds. They also issue sovereign bonds in foreign currencies. Provincial, state or local authorities (municipalities). In the U.S. they issue what are known as municipal bonds.
Government sponsored entities in the U.S., such as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) issue Agency bonds, commonly known as Agencies. Companies (corporates) issue Corporate bonds.
Special purpose vehicles are companies set up for the sole purpose of containing assets against which bonds are issued, often asset-backed securities.

Issuing bonds

Bonds are issued by governments or other public authorities, credit institutions, companies and supranational institutions in the primary markets. The most common process of issuing bonds is through underwriting. One or more banks, forming a syndicate, underwrite the bonds, and sell them on to their customers. Government bonds are typically auctioned. Bonds enable the issuer to finance long-term investments with external funds.

Features of bonds

The most important features of a bond are:
nominal, principal or face amount - the amount over which the issuer pays interest, and which has to be repaid at the end.
issue price - the price at which investors buy the bonds when they are first issued. The net proceeds that the issuer receives, are calculated as the issue price, less the fees for the underwriters, times the nominal amount.
maturity date - the date on which the issuer has to repay the nominal amount. After the maturity date the issuer has no more obligations to the bond holders, as long as all payments have been made of course. The length of time until the maturity date is often referred to as the term or simply 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 of up to thirty years. Some bonds have been issued with maturities of up to one hundred years, and some even do not mature at all. These are called perpetuities. In early 2005, a market developed in euros for bonds with a maturity of fifty years. In the market for U.S. Treasury securities, there are three groups of bond maturities:
short term (Bills): maturities up to one year
medium term (Notes): maturities between one and ten years
long term (Bonds): maturities greater than ten years
coupon - the interest rate that the issuer pays to the bond holders. Usually this rate is fixed throughout the life of the bond. It can also vary with a money market index, such as LIBOR, or indeed it can be more exotic. The name coupon originates from the fact that in the past, physical bonds were issued which had coupons attached to them. On coupon dates the bond holder would give the coupon to a bank in exchange for the interest payment.
coupon dates - the dates on which the issuer pays the coupon to the bond holders. In the U.S., most bonds are semi-annual, which means that they pay a coupon every six months. In Europe, most bonds are annual and pay only one coupon a year. callability - Some bonds give the issuer the right to repay the bond before the maturity date on the call dates. These bonds are referred to as callable bonds. Most callable bonds allow the issuer to repay the bond at par. With some bonds, the issuer has to pay a premium, the so called call premium. This is mainly the case for high-yield bonds. These have very strict covenants, restricting the issuer in its operations. To be free from these covenants, the issuer can repay the bonds early, but only at a high cost.
puttability - Some bonds give the bond holder the right to force the issuer to repay the bond before the maturity date on the put dates.
call dates and put dates - the dates on which callable and puttable bonds can be redeemed early. There are three main categories.
A Bermudan callable has several call dates, usually coinciding with coupon dates.
A European callable has only one call date. This is a special case of a Bermudan callable.
An American callable can be called at any time until the maturity date.
indenture - a document specifying the rights of bond holders. In the U.S. federal and state securities and commercial laws apply to the enforcement of those documents, which are construed by courts as contracts. The terms may be changed while the bonds are outstanding, but amendments to the governing document often require approval by a majority vote of the bond holders.

Types of bond

Fixed rate bonds have a coupon that remains constant throughout the life of the bond.
Floating rate notes (FRN's) have a coupon that is linked to a money market index, such as LIBOR or EURIBOR, for example three months USD LIBOR +0.20%. The coupon is then reset periodically, normally every three months.
Convertible bonds can be converted, on the maturity date, into another kind of security, usually common stock in the company that issued the bonds.
High yield bonds are bonds that are rated below investment grade by the credit rating agencies. As these bonds are relatively risky, investors expect to earn a higher yield, hence the name high yield bonds. Those market participants that want to emphasize the risky nature of the bonds, also call them junk bonds.
Zero coupon bonds do not pay any interest. They trade at a substantial discount from par. The bond holder receives the full principal amount on the maturity date. An example of zero coupon bonds are Series E savings bonds issued by the U.S. Government. Zero coupon bonds may be created from fixed rate bonds by financial institutions by "stripping off" the coupons. In other words, the coupons are separated from the final principal payment of the bond and traded independently. Inflation linked bonds, in which the principal amount is indexed to inflation. The interest rate is lower than for fixed rate bonds with a comparable maturity. However, as the principal amount grows, the payments increase with inflation. The government of the United Kingdom was the first to issue inflation linked Gilts in the 1980's. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) and I-bonds are examples of inflation linked bonds issued by the U.S. Government.
Asset-backed securities are bonds whose interest and principal payments are backed by underlying cash flows from other assets. Examples of asset-backed securities are mortgage-backed securities (MBS), collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO).
Subordinated bonds are those that have a lower priority than other bonds of the issuer in case of liquidation. In case of bankruptcy, there is a hierarchy of creditors. First the liquidator is paid, then government taxes, etc. The first bond holders in line to be paid are those holding what is called senior bonds. After they have been paid, the subordinated bond holders are paid. As the expectation that you get paid back is lower, the risk is higher. Therefore, subordinated bonds have a lower credit rating then senior bonds. The main examples of subordinated bonds can be found in bonds issued by banks, and asset-backed securities. The latter are often issued in tranches. The senior tranches get paid back first, the subordinated tranches later.
Perpetual bonds are also often called perpetuities. They have no maturity date. The most famous of these are the UK Consols, which are also known as Treasury Annuities or Undated Treasuries. Some of these were issued back in 1888 and still trade today.

Trading and valuing bonds

The interest rate that the issuer of a bond must pay is influenced by a variety of factors, such as current market interest rates, the length of the term and the credit worthiness of the issuer. Since these factors are likely to change over time, the market value of a bond can vary after it is issued. Because of these differences in market value, bonds are priced in terms of percentage of par value. Bonds are not necessarily issued at par (100% of face value, corresponding to a price of 100), but all bond prices converge to par at the moment before they reach maturity. At other times, prices can either rise (bond is priced at greater than 100), which is called trading at a premium, or fall (bond is priced at less than 100), which is called trading at a discount. Most government bonds are denominated in units of $1000, if in the United States, or in units of one hundred pounds, if 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, 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. T-Bill, are always issued at a discount, and pay par amount at maturity rather than paying coupons. This is called a discount bond.

The market price of a bond is the present value of all future interest and principal payments of the bond discounted at the bond's yield, or rate of return. The yield represents the current market interest rate for bonds with similar characteristics. The yield and price of a bond are inversely related so that when market interest rates rise, bond prices generally fall and vice versa.

The market price of a bond may include the accrued interest since the last coupon date. (Some bond markets include accrued interest in the trading price and others add it on explicitly after trading.) The price including accrued interest is known as the "flat" or "tel quel price". (See also Accrual bond.)

The interest rate adjusted for the current price of the bond is called the "current yield" or "earnings yield" (this is the nominal yield multiplied by the par value and divided by the price).

Taking into account the expected capital gain or loss (the difference between the current price and the redemption value) gives the "redemption yield": roughly the current yield plus the capital gain (negative for loss) per year until redemption.

The relationship between yield and maturity for otherwise identical bonds is called a yield curve.

Investing in bonds

Bonds are bought and traded mostly by institutions like pension funds, insurance companies and banks. Most individuals who want to own bonds do so through mutual funds. Still, in the U.S., nearly ten percent of all bonds outstanding are held directly by households.

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 higher than dividend payments that the same company would generally choose to pay to its stockholders. Bonds are liquid it is fairly easy to sell one's bond investments, though not nearly as easy as it is to sell stocks and the certainty of a fixed interest payment twice per year 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, whereas the company's stock often ends up valueless. However, bonds can be risky:
Fixed rate bonds are subject to interest rate risk, meaning they will decrease in value when the generally prevailing interest rate rises (the opposite is true for bonds with negative convexity e.g bonds that allow for prepayment such as mortgage-backed securities). When the market's interest rates rise, then the market price for bonds will fall, reflecting investors' improved ability to get a good interest rate for their money elsewhere perhaps by purchasing a newly issued bond that already features the newly higher interest rate. This drop in the bond's market price does not affect the interest payments to the bondholder at all, so long-term investors need not worry about price swings in their bonds.

However, price changes in a bond immediately affect mutual funds that hold these bonds. Many institutional investors have to "mark to market" their trading books at the end of every day. If the value of the bonds held in a trading portfolio has fallen over the day, the "mark to market" value of the portfolio may also have fallen. This can be damaging for professional investors such as banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers. If there is any chance a holder of individual bonds may need to sell his bonds and "cash out" for some reason, 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.
Bonds prices can become volatile if one of the credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor's or Moody's upgrades or downgrades the credit rating of the issuer. A downgrade can cause the market price of the bond to fall. As with interest rate risk, this risk does not affect the bond's interest payments, but puts at risk the market price, which affects mutual funds holding these bonds, and holders of individual bonds who may have to sell them.
A company's bondholders may lose much or all their money if the company goes bankrupt. Under the laws of the United States and many other countries, bondholders are in line to receive the proceeds of the sale of the assets of a liquidated company ahead of some other creditors. Bank lenders, deposit holders (in the case of a deposit taking institution such as a bank) and trade creditors may take precedence.

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.
Some bonds are callable, meaning that even though the company has agreed to make payments plus interest towards the debt for a certain period of time, the company can choose to pay off the bond early. This creates reinvestment risk, meaning the investor is forced to find a new place for his money, and the investor might not be able to find as good a deal, especially because this usually happens when interest rates are falling.

Arguments against bonds

Some theories of economics, notably Islamic economics and green economics, argue that the overall effect of any debt on ecosystems and society is so negative that no bond should have any legal status. These theories are part of a broader category called creditary economics. In these, there is no creditor, only a joint venture partner or investor. Remnants of this same belief still exist even today in Western finance and legal precedents, as seen in usury laws, mortgage laws, and also as seen in perpetual bonds. At the time of issue during the late Middle Ages, many perpetual bonds were sold not as debt instruments but rather as an income stream or annuity instrument. One was buying a future income, not lending money. By this thinking, no interest was paid on perpetual bonds, despite the existence of a yield for such financial instruments.

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