How to Read Bond Market Tables

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How to Read Bond Market Tables. When you first attempt to read a bond market table, it may look unfamiliar. This is especially true if you are used to reading stock tables in your daily newspaper. Essentially, though, all bond tables contain the same information, whether they are for government, corporate, or tax exempt bonds.

Understand What Information is Contained in Bond Market Tables

Realize that bond prices in printed media such as newspapers are snapshots. Bond prices do fluctuate during the day just as stocks do, although they tend to fluctuate less drastically.

Read "issuer" to mean the company, government or other entity that issues the bond.

Recognize that the "coupon" value or "rate" means the interest rate that the issuer pays to you (the lender). It can be fixed or variable depending on the bond.

Look for the "maturity date" in another column. This is the date when the loan is due and the issuer must pay the principal back to the lender. It is usually the last two digits of the year. For example, a listing of 10 would mean the year 2010.

Read the "bid" column, listing the price that somebody is willing to pay for the bond. It is always quoted as a percentage. For example, a bond that is listed as 105 means that the bond is trading at 105 percent of its value. Generally, par values (face values) of bonds are $1,000 each. The easiest way to read the bid price is to move the decimal one point over to the right. In the example above, the bond would be selling for $1050.

Read the "high," "low" and "last" columns if the table includes them. If it's a real-time table, such as one online, these values will refer to times during the same day. If it's a printed table such as a daily newspaper, the values will refer to the previous day. "High" is the highest amount the bond sold for during that time, while "low" is the lowest amount the bond sold for. "Last" refers to the most recent amount a bond traded for the day before (printed) or during the same day (real time).

Refer to the "percent change" columns sometimes included in a bond market table. This is the difference between the current price of the bond and what it previously sold for.

Learn the "yield," which is usually the yield to maturity (YTM), what the bond earns annually until it matures. Some tables list the current yield, which is the yield the bond is currently earning. This may be higher or lower than the coupon rate, depending on the amount the bond is trading for.

Understand abbreviations in bond tables. Sometimes you will see "m" for maturity, for example, or "cld," representing a called bond.

Tips & Warnings

  • For the most up-to-date information on prices and interest rates, contact your broker or consult a news website such as CNN (see Resources below).

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