Globally, the fixed-income market is a key source of financing for businesses and governments. In fact, the total market value outstanding of corporate and government bonds is significantly larger than that of equity securities. Similarly, the fixed-income market, which is also called the debt market or bond market, represents a significant investing opportunity for institutions as well as individuals. Pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies, and sovereign wealth funds, among others, are major fixed-income investors. Retirees who desire a relatively stable income stream often hold fixed-income securities. Clearly, understanding how to value fixed-income securities is important to investors, issuers, and financial analysts. This reading focuses on the valuation of traditional (option-free) fixed-rate bonds, although other debt securities, such as floating-rate notes and money market instruments, are also covered.
Section 2 describes and illustrates basic bond valuation, which includes pricing a bond using a market discount rate for each of the future cash flows and pricing a bond using a series of spot rates. Valuation using spot rates allows for each future cash flow to be discounted at a rate associated with its timing. This valuation methodology for future cash flows has applications well beyond the fixed-income market. Relationships among a bond’s price, coupon rate, maturity, and market discount rate (yield-to-maturity) are also described and illustrated.
Section 3 describes how bond prices and yields are quoted and calculated in practice. When bonds are actively traded, investors can observe the price and calculate various yield measures. However, these yield measures differ by the type of bond. In practice, different measures are used for fixed-rate bonds, floating-rate notes, and money market instruments. When a bond is not actively traded, matrix pricing is often used to estimate the value based on comparable securities.
Section 4 addresses the maturity or term structure of interest rates. This discussion involves an analysis of yield curves, which illustrates the relationship between yields-to-maturity and times-to-maturity on bonds with otherwise similar characteristics. Various types of yield curves are described.
Section 5 focuses on yield spreads over benchmark interest rates. When investors want relatively higher yields, they have to be prepared to bear more risk. Yield spreads are measures of how much additional yield over the benchmark security (usually a government bond) investors expect for bearing additional risk. A summary of key points and practice problems conclude the reading.