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What is a Zero Coupon Bond?

A Zero Coupon Bond is one that does not make interest payments - the bondholder only receives the face value back at time of maturity. The bond purchaser typically pays a deep discount for the bond, and the gain made over the life of the investment is the difference between the amount paid for the bond and the face value returned to the investor when the bond matures. What is a Bond Coupon? Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Bonds? Continue reading...

What is a foreign currency swap?

What is a foreign currency swap?

These are generally referred to as currency swaps or cross-currency swaps , since “foreign” is a little redundant (currencies are from different countries anyway). Central banks and large institutions sometimes swap principal amounts and loan interest in their domestic currency in exchange for a foreign currency, to provide liquidity and a hedge. Currency swaps are where banking institutions, particularly central banks, exchange a loan in one currency for a loan in another currency. 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 a Corporate Bond?

A corporate bond is a debt security issued by a public or private company to raise capital. They are generally issued in multiples of $1,000 or $5,000, and the issuing company must agree to pay a certain interest rate typically determined by their creditworthiness and earning history/potential. Often times the corporation issuing the debt must use their physical assets as collateral, and it is often found that corporations are more likely to issue debt during an environment when interest rates are low, so they can borrow at attractive rates. Corporate debt that matures in less than one year is called ‘commercial paper.’ 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 Types of Bonds Are There?

Bonds are divided into a several categories, and it is possible to get substantial diversification within a bond portfolio alone. Bonds may be categorized into several types. There are investment grade bonds which are conservative and safe, high-yield bonds which are relatively risky and profitable, floating rate bonds whose coupon rate is not fixed, zero coupon bonds which only pay at maturity, and foreign bonds, and so on. Continue reading...

What are Risk-Weighted Assets?

International banking regulations set forth in the Basel Accords require that institutions maintain a certain amount of capital relative to the amount of risk-weighted assets (RWA) they have. Conservative investments such a treasury notes have a risk weighting of zero, while corporate bonds have a weighting of .20, and so forth. The exact weighting system is laid out in Basel agreements. The system is designed to reveal a bank’s level of exposure to potential losses, and the capital requirements are there to balance out the risks and to protect the global economy from a meltdown in the financial system. Continue reading...

What is Bond Insurance?

Bond insurance is a contract that protects the issuer and the holder of bonds from the risk that bond payments will not be made. Bond issues from the corporate or municipal world, or from derivative sources as with asset-backed securities and CDOs, come with the risk of default-- that is, that payments will not be made on time. The major credit ratings agencies (CRAs) assign a risk of default to each bond issue with proprietary analysis methods and ratings. Continue reading...

What is a Plus Tick?

A plus tick is a transaction which occurs at a price higher than the transaction before it, also called an uptick, but often used in relation to a zero plus tick, which is explained below. A plus tick is an indication that the security in question is not declining at a given moment in time. In other words, the most recent traded price of a security is higher than the price it traded at prior. The term ‘uptick’ refers to the same thing, but "plus tick" is used in reference to the first part of a zero plus tick event: an uptick occurs in which the price traded is higher than the previous price, and then a trade occurs in which the price remains the same. Continue reading...

What is a Bond?

A bond is a contract which “binds” the lender to the debtor, where an individual investor is generally the lender and the debtor is the company or government which has borrowed funds. When a company or government entity needs more capital, whether to fund operations or a specific project, it can borrow money from investors instead of from a banking institution. Where there is a risk of the investor not being repaid, the interest rate will be proportionally higher. The simplest way a bond works is with set payments at set intervals that gradually repay the debt and interest owed to the investor over a set amount of time. Continue reading...

What is a "spread"?

What is a "spread"?

Spread has several meanings in finance, but the most general usage is to describe the difference between the bid and the ask prices for a security, where a narrower spread would indicate high trading volume and liquidity. It also might refer to a type of options strategy in which an investor purchases two calls or two puts on the same underlying security but with different expiration dates or strike prices. Continue reading...

What is the “Riskless” (or Risk-Free) Rate of Return?

What is the “Riskless” (or Risk-Free) Rate of Return?

For comparisons of the risk/return ratio of an investment, one must start with a benchmark of a risk-free rate of return in the current market. Since U.S. Treasury bills are backed by the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the U.S. Government, they are considered “riskless,” or as close to riskless as we can get. The current yield on a 10-year Treasury note is generally considered the risk-free rate of return. Continue reading...

Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Bonds?

There will always be more to learn in the investment world: innovation is always happening and the products will change along with market conditions. Bonds are no exception. The bond market is huge — actually larger than the stock market, if you can believe that — and there are literally hundreds of economic, market, and tax-related factors which influence the decisions of which bonds to buy. You must look at the yield curve, duration, rating of the issuer, your own cash flow needs, expected changes in the interest rate environment, changes in the overall health of the economy, tax implications, account in which you're buying bonds, and so forth. Therefore, structuring fixed income accounts is a task which is perhaps better left to professional advisors. Continue reading...

What is an Income Bond?

Income bonds are issued by companies and they will only pay a coupon or interest rate if the company generates adequate earnings to do so. Non-payment of a coupon or interest rate does not necessarily mean that the company is in default. The principal amount plus some interest is due to the bondholder at maturity. Income bonds are sometimes issued by companies who are experiencing hard times and cannot guarantee a coupon payment to bondholders. Continue reading...

What is Income Risk?

Income risk is the chance that an investment which is used for income will fluctuate in an unfavorable way if the interest rate environment or market conditions change. Some mutual funds and ETFs are branded as income funds when they use lots of corporate bonds that generate regular income payments, but they are often sensitive to interest rate changes. The Federal Reserve Board and the market can affect changes in the interest rate environment as times goes on. Continue reading...

What is Bond Yield?

What is Bond Yield?

Bond yield is a measure of the return on investment for bonds, and there several kinds of yield that can be computed. Yield on a bond is the amount of interest that it pays annually, as a percentage of the amount invested — at least, this is the most common type of yield discussed, which is known as Current Yield. If a bond pays quarterly or monthly income to the investor, these payments are totaled up and divided by the amount invested. 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 Convertible Bond?

A convertible bond, also known as convertible debt, is debt that can be converted to equity (in the form of common stock) at the discretion of the bondholder. There are typically windows that an investor can choose to convert the bond to equity, which an investor may choose to do if they have confidence the company will continue to perform well. Because a convertible bond has the option to convert to stock, it typically offers a lower interest rate since the conversion capability itself has value. Continue reading...

What is Par Value?

Par value is the nominal value of a security (such as a stock or a bond) that is typically indicated on the certificate of ownership. Par value is most often associated with bonds, and refers to the amount that will be returned to the investor at the bond’s maturity. Par value of bonds is generally $100 or $1,000. Bonds traded on the open market are not generally bought and sold at par value, as they typically trade at a premium or a discount to par. Bond prices are influenced by interest rates, and have an inverse relationship with them. 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...