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What is the Unemployment Rate?

There are a few ways to measure unemployment, but it is normally interpreted as a percentage of the working-age population that does not have a job. The statistics that are used to determine unemployment rate typically use the number of unemployed people who are actively searching for a job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a monthly poll called the Current Population Survey which goes out to about 50,000 households, and this is a significant source of unemployment data. Continue reading...

What is Stagflation?

Stagflation is the occurrence of both stagnation, which is slowing growth and production levels, and inflation, which is the increase of the average cost of goods. If production costs rise for some reason, such as higher oil prices, it can cause economic growth to slow down and the supply of goods in the market to drop. This is known as stagnation. The weakened supply of goods in the market and the higher production costs of the goods will cause the retail prices of the good in the market to go up. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)?

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act was passed in 1939, and it set up trust funds for the purpose of providing unemployment insurance. Businesses, not individuals, are taxed to provide funds for the program. There are 53 state funds (including D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands), 4 federal accounts, and 2 associated with railroad retirement. The Federal Unemployment Tax helps states fund their own unemployment programs. Continue reading...

What is Yield to Maturity?

The payments remaining on an interest-paying bond or instrument, plus principal, are totaled up and then annualized, and this annual rate is the yield to maturity. Yield to maturity is a calculation that helps an investor decide if he or she is getting a good deal. If yield to maturity is greater than the coupon rate, the bond is trading a a discount. If yield to maturity is less than the coupon rate, it is selling at a premium. If they are equal the bond is trading at par value. Continue reading...

What is Maturity?

Maturity is the amount of time an investment exists - once the security matures, it is paid off to the investor and concludes the transaction. Maturities are most commonly used in the fixed income context, with bonds having maturities consistent with when their principal is paid back to the investor. What is Yield to Maturity? How Do I Structure My Bond Portfolio? Continue reading...

What is Deflation?

Deflation is an economic term used to describe a trend of broad-based price declines for goods and services. Deflation is generally considered a big negative in the realm of economics. If a country is experiencing deflation, it is usually because demand for goods has fallen substantially, pushing prices down. It can also be tied to falling investment and government spending, both factors that signal weak demand in an economy. Continue reading...

What is Yield?

Yield is a term which describes the cash return on a security investment, and does not include appreciation. Yield is the cash paid out of an investment in the form of dividends and interest received. The term does not encompass the appreciation of the investment, and it may be evaluated in different ways for different types of investments, so comparisons of yield across asset types is not standardized or recommended. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Open Market Committee?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the monetary policy-making body of the Federal Reserve System. The FOMC makes the decision on “raising” or “lowering” interest rates, which refers to moves in the federal funds rate. The FOMC consists of 12 members, which is comprised of the seven members of the Board of Governors and 5 of the 12 Reserve Bank presidents. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York always has a seat on the FOMC, while the other presidents rotate for one year terms. This policy-making body meets eight times a year to decide monetary policy, which consists of setting the benchmark interest rate and make decisions regarding the supply of money. All dependent on economic conditions. Continue reading...

What are Bond Ratings?

The possibility of a company or municipal government defaulting on their bond obligations, usually by going bankrupt, is a real one. For this reason, all bonds are rated according to the financial stability of the issuer. A look at the history of corporate and municipal debt will illuminate the fact that the possibility of the issuer being unable to pay its obligations to bondholders is a very real one. There is an established system of bond ratings that gives a rough estimate of the bond's reliability. Continue reading...

What is a Run Rate?

Run rate is a term that can be applied to a certain type of accounting and management estimation or to the depletion of equity options. The first kind is when a current metric (such as sales revenue for a quarter) is assumed to extend out to the end of the year or accounting period for estimation or valuation purposes. The second kind uses the average dilution from the past three years, generally, to show the effect that convertible securities are having on the share price of a company. Continue reading...

What is Accrual Rate?

This term might apply to bonds or pensions and other financial instruments which build up interest value which is paid out at a later time. Accrual Rate is the rate at which a nominal interest rate is credited to an account that will be paid out at a later time. A bond sold in the secondary market, for instance, will take the accrual rate into account if the sale takes place in between coupon payments. Continue reading...

What is a Rate Swap?

A rate swap is the exchange of cash flows on underlying principals which are not exchanged. It is an over-the-counter contract between two institutions to trade the cash flows on two comparable principal amounts, but not to exchange the actual principal amounts. Institutions might prefer this arrangement because they only have access to floating interest rates or are overweight in them and would prefer to have some fixed rate interest cash flow, or vice versa. These swaps might occur between banks on opposite sides of the world to take advantage of rates elsewhere or to simply diversify their risks. Continue reading...

What is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is a simple financial principle that’s been around for centuries, whereby a borrower has to pay for money borrowed. The interest rate is agreed to between the lender and the borrower, and there may be provisions under which the rate could change over the course of  a loan. In simple terms, an interest rate is the cost of money. Continue reading...

What is a Callable Bond?

A callable bond, also known as a “redeemable bond,” is one where the issuer has the ability to pay off the debt prior to its maturity date, with certain conditions. Which the issuer has the right to redeem prior to its maturity date, under certain conditions. The primary reason that an issuer would choose to “call” a bond is that interest rates have declined since the bond was issued. By calling the bond, the issuer generally has to opportunity to refinance that debt at a lower rate. Once called, the issuer will notify the creditor and pay off the debt, typically with a slight premium added to close the deal. Continue reading...

What is a Certificate of Deposit?

A Certificate of Deposit, commonly referred to as a CD, is a financial product that essentially pays risk-free interest (though typically at very low rates). CDs are typically offered by banks and credit unions, and usually span in duration from one month to 5 or 10 years. They are FDIC guaranteed up to $250,000, so customers may generally consider them risk-free. But because there is very little risk to purchasing a CD, they also typically pay very low annual interest rates. Continue reading...

What is a Bond Coupon?

A bond coupon is the interest rate that a bond issuer agrees to pay to the bondholder, representing the interest earned from owning the bond. Bond coupons are fixed at the time the bond is issued and remain constant throughout the bond's life. The fixed nature of bond coupons makes them an attractive investment for investors seeking predictable income streams. Continue reading...

What is the Discount Rate?

The Discount Rate can actually have multiple meanings, but the most prevalent one is in regards to the minimum interest rate the Federal Reserve will charge for lending to commercial banks. The Federal Reserve sets the discount rate in an effort to discourage or encourage commercial banks to borrow, depending on the economic conditions. The discount rate also refers to the rate used to calculate the present value of future cash flows, as part of Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis. Continue reading...

What is the Interbank Rate?

The interbank rate is the average lending rate used between banks of comparable size and creditworthiness when they borrow money from each other. The Federal Funds Rate is the benchmark in America, while LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) is more prevalent elsewhere. These are indexes which are used to determine rates and terms for other financial instruments and swaps. The Prime Rate, or the rate banks will used for their most credit-worthy customers, is tied to the interbank rate but is slightly higher of course. In America the Federal Funds Rate is so called because the Central bank participates in the lending. This is sometimes called the overnight rate when it refers to money that is lent between banks overnight. Continue reading...

What is a Dividend Rate?

The dividend rate is basically just the value of the annual dividend of a company, stated as the monetary value. Not to be confused with the dividend yield, or the dividend growth rate, both of which are percentages. Dividend yield and dividend rate are slightly different from one another. The dividend yield is the size of a dividend in relation to the share price, and is stated as a percentage. The dividend rate is actually the amount of money paid out per share, per year, stated as a dollar amount. Continue reading...

AAA/Aaa — credit rating

AAA — S&P / Fitch Aaa — Moody’s AAA/Aaa rated bond issues have an almost nonexistent chance of defaulting, according to the major ratings institutions that issue the ratings. AAA/Aaa is the highest rating a bond issue or company can get. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and recession, many companies, and the US Government itself, were downgraded from AAA to AA+. Only two companies in the US still retain the AAA rating: Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft. Continue reading...