Types of Bonds: Your Guide to the Bond Market
Bonds are a fixed-income product that provides a way of raising long-term funds for various bodies and institutions.
Also described simply as a loan, different types of bonds are used by governments, companies and so on, in order to fund various projects.
Those who own the bonds, or who fund the bonds, are seen as the creditors. Naturally, there is always either a variable or fixed interest rate attached to the principal and expiry date.
Though there are different types of bonds, fundamentally, all bonds follow the same or similar structure. We will explain to you the various different examples of bonds and how they work, as well as how to trade or invest in them.
Table of Contents
Types of Bonds: Introduction to Bonds
Bonds are a type of debt. In other words, they are effectively an "I Owe You" which is effectively a pay promise made by the bond issuer to the bondholder, as per the terms of the Bond Instrument. The bond issuer takes on the debt, and the person that buys the debt, the bondholder, is the one providing funds.
The bond issuer can then use those funds to finance whatever spending plan they wish. In return, they pay a fixed or variable interest on the debt at regular intervals for the life of the bond.
At the end of the term of the debt, the bond is said to mature, at which point the issuer repays the original sum of the debt (known as the principal).
The transaction where new debt is issued to buyers is known as the primary market, but this only comprises a part of the whole bond market. The bond market also has a secondary market, in which the bonds issued previously are traded between buyers and sellers as debt securities. The bond market is vast, far exceeding the stock market in terms of value.
- The largest issuers of debt are governments.
- Governments issue long-term government bonds in order to help finance expenditures needed to support their countries.
- Other major issuers of fixed-income debt include banks and corporations.
We will discuss both government bonds and corporate bonds in further detail below.
Bonds are not the only type of debt security, of course.
Other types include debentures, notes, and commercial paper. Generally speaking, bonds tend to have longer terms than other debt securities.
Before we look at some different types of bonds, let's first quickly summarise some key terms that we use when talking about bonds:
- Principal – the amount of debt that the issuer has taken on, and which they pay interest on to the bondholder.
- Maturity – the maturity date defines when the principal has to be repaid to the bondholder.
- Coupon – the interest rate paid by the issuer to the bondholder.
- Yield – gauges the rate of return an investor would receive from a bond. This can be calculated in more than one way, but most simply it is the annual interest amount divided by the prevailing market price of the bond.
- Current market price – bonds will vary in price over the course of their term as they trade on the secondary market.
There is an intimate relationship between interest rates and different types of bonds. As bonds pay out a fixed sum periodically, they become more attractive when interest rates fall, and less attractive when rates rise.
Bond market prices may therefore vary from the issue price and are often used as a proxy for medium - to long-term interest rate expectations.
Naturally, the price of a certain type of bond will also be affected if perceptions change regarding the creditworthiness of the issuer (see also the section on bond ratings below).
Would you like to learn more about the markets by joining one of our free webinars? Click the banner below to register today:
Different Types of Bonds
In this section, we are going to discuss four different types of bonds. These are:
- Supranational bonds
- Corporate bonds
- Government bonds
- Municipal bonds
A supranational bond is a long-term form of debt that transcends the boundaries of a single country; typically they are formed by two (or more) countries. This helps to promote growth within the economic areas.
- These are very similar to government bonds and tend to have a high credit rating.
- A good example of supranational bonds are those issued by the European Investment Bank, a long-term lending institution owned by the European Union (EU) member states, and the Asian Development Bank.
- Other examples of supranational groups are the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
What are some advantages of supranational bonds?
- Development Banks (DBs) tend to act out of the interest of all entities involved, creating a more cohesively beneficial result.
- Demand for DBs is increasing, making this potentially a more attractive option for those who favour trading or investing in bonds.
- DBs tend to invest in ESG-focused areas, such as sustainable energy, social infrastructure, water, and so on.
Companies can raise funds through two main avenues: floating shares or by issuing debt in the form of corporate bonds.
There are many reasons that a corporation may wish to raise money through such means, including mergers and acquisitions activity, and funding the cost of expansion. Raising capital comes with a cost, of course. In the case of shares, the company gives up a share of voting rights and, usually, a dividend.
With debt, the company incurs interest costs. While a company may issue debt with a wide range of maturities, corporate bonds usually refer to corporate debt with a term of at least a year.
Short-term debt is, instead, referred to as corporate paper. The secondary market in corporate bonds is most commonly transacted over-the-counter (OTC), though some corporate bonds are exchange-traded.
Government bonds are a type of sovereign debt. Government bonds typically have maturities of medium or long time-frames, anywhere from a couple of years, up to several decades.
This contrasts forms of short-term sovereign debt such as treasury bills (T-bills). Major government bonds have very liquid exchange-traded futures contracts available, meaning that they are an easy type of bond for individuals to trade.
Here is a list of some major government bonds:
- US T-bonds (also known as the long bond; they have long maturities, ranging from 20 to 30 years)
- US T-notes (medium-term US debt, with maturities ranging from 2 to 10 years)
- UK Gilts (there are medium - and long-term versions of the gilt, and both are UK government debts)
- German bund (long-term German debt with terms between 8.5 to 10.5 years)
- German schatz (also known as the short bund, it is a German debt with maturities of around 2 years)
- German BOBL (Bundesobligationen, a medium-term German debt, with terms between 4.5 to 5.5 years)
- Italian government bonds (also known as BTP or Buoni del Tesoro Poliannuali, are medium - to long-term Italian treasury bonds with maturities ranging from 3 years up to 30 years).
Though the liquidity and risk are dependent on the government in question, as a general rule, government bonds tend to be liquid and are perceived as low-risk, particularly for countries with large, established economies, such as the G7 nations. It's worth noting, though, that there is always some risk attached.
Municipal bonds are a type of sub-sovereign bond. In the United States, the bonds issued by the Federal government are Treasury notes and bonds, as mentioned above.
Below the Federal level, smaller branches of government also issue debt in order to fund their capital spending programmes. Debt securities issued by a local government entity or agency, such as states, cities, counties, and even schools and publicly-owned airports, are called municipal bonds or muni bonds.
The municipal bond market is large, valued at around several trillion US dollars. In the US, the interest accrued on such debt is usually exempt from Federal tax, and sometimes may also be exempt from state tax.
Trading Bond CFDs With Admirals
Click the banner below and register an account today:
What are Bond Ratings?
As we have established, a bondholder is effectively loaning out money to the bond issuer. Now, when it comes to lending money, one of the key things you need to know is how trustworthy the borrower is.
This is where bond ratings come in. Companies such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's provide credit rating services that aim to help investors make a judgement on how likely a debt issuer is to fulfil its payment obligations.
The highest rating is AAA. Bonds that are rated BBB or higher are said to be of investment grade.
Bonds that are rated BB or lower are designated as high yield and are also commonly referred to as junk bond status. A bond that has a junk bond status is considered to be at greater risk of default.
This depresses the attractiveness of the debt, all things being equal; consequently, the issuer of the debt is forced to set the coupon at a higher rate in order to attract funds.
How to Trade with Bonds
As mentioned earlier, when discussing the market price of bonds, the value of a bond is strongly tied to interest rates. This makes bond futures a good way to trade if you have a view on the future performance of interest rates, or if you are looking to hedge your exposure to interest rate risk.
Admirals offers CFDs (Contracts for Difference) on bond futures and 10-year T-note futures so that you have the convenience of trading bond futures as well as through MetaTrader 5 - Click the banner below to get started:
Types of Bonds: Conclusion
Are any of the various different types of bonds and examples of bonds relevant to your investing and/or trading style and strategy?
This is a question always subjective to the individual's given risk tolerance and risk management style. Please always trade within your objectives and remember to monitor your positions.
Our demo trading account allows you to trade with virtual funds on products such as FX currency pairs, CFDs on cryptocurrency, commodities, stocks, ETFs, and much more. There is no risk of real capital with a demo account.
We sincerely hope that you found this introductory discussion of the different types of bonds to be of some use.
Whichever product you are looking to trade, be it bonds, shares, or FX, a great way to start is by trying it out within a risk-free environment. Click the banner below to register a demo account today:
What are the 5 types of bonds?
Overall, there are 5 different types of bonds: Treasury, municipal, agency, corporate and savings. Not all will be applicable to every trader.
What is an example of a supranational bond?
An example of a supranational bond would include the European Union (EU), one of the largest issuers of supranational bonds.
Other Articles of Interest:
- Bonds vs. Stocks
- Why and How to Trade with Government Bonds
- A Guide to Different Types of Financial Instruments
INFORMATION ABOUT ANALYTICAL MATERIALS:
The given data provides additional information regarding all analysis, estimates, prognosis, forecasts, market reviews, weekly outlooks or other similar assessments or information (hereinafter “Analysis”) published on the websites of Admiral Markets investment firms operating under the Admiral Markets and Admirals trademarks (hereinafter “Admirals”). Before making any investment decisions please pay close attention to the following:
1. This is a marketing communication. The content is published for informative purposes only and is in no way to be construed as investment advice or recommendation. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research, and that it is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.
2. Any investment decision is made by each client alone whereas Admirals shall not be responsible for any loss or damage arising from any such decision, whether or not based on the content.
3. With view to protecting the interests of our clients and the objectivity of the Analysis, Admirals has established relevant internal procedures for prevention and management of conflicts of interest.
4. The Analysis is prepared by an independent analyst (hereinafter “Author”) based on Brandie E Blackler, Financial Analyst, personal estimations.
5. Whilst every reasonable effort is taken to ensure that all sources of the content are reliable and that all information is presented, as much as possible, in an understandable, timely, precise and complete manner, Admirals does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information contained within the Analysis.
6. Any kind of past or modeled performance of financial instruments indicated within the content should not be construed as an express or implied promise, guarantee or implication by Admirals for any future performance. The value of the financial instrument may both increase and decrease and the preservation of the asset value is not guaranteed.
7. Leveraged products (including contracts for difference) are speculative in nature and may result in losses or profit. Before you start trading, please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved.