An Introduction to Bond Markets
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An Introduction to Bond Markets

Moorad Choudhry

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eBook - ePub

An Introduction to Bond Markets

Moorad Choudhry

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About This Book

The bond markets are a vital part of the world economy. The fourth edition of Professor Moorad Choudhry's benchmark reference text An Introduction to Bond Markets brings readers up to date with latest developments and market practice, including the impact of the financial crisis and issues of relevance for investors. This book offers a detailed yet accessible look at bond instruments, and is aimed specifically at newcomers to the market or those unfamiliar with modern fixed income products. The author capitalises on his wealth of experience in the fixed income markets to present this concise yet in-depth coverage of bonds and associated derivatives.

Topics covered include:

  • Bond pricing and yield
  • Duration and convexity
  • Eurobonds and convertible bonds
  • Structured finance securities
  • Interest-rate derivatives
  • Credit derivatives
  • Relative value trading

Related topics such as the money markets and principles of risk management are also introduced as necessary background for students and practitioners. The book is essential reading for all those who require an introduction to the financial markets.

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Chapter 1
Bonds are the basic ingredient of the world’s debt-capital markets, which in turn are the cornerstone of the world’s economy. Consider how many television news programmes contain a slot during which the newscaster informs viewers where the main stock market indexes closed that day and where key foreign exchange rates ended up. More usefully, the financial sections of most newspapers also indicate at what yield the government long bond closed. This coverage reflects the fact that bond prices are affected directly by economic and political events, and yield levels on certain government bonds are fundamental economic indicators. The yield level on the US Treasury long bond, for instance, mirrors the market’s view on US interest rates, inflation, public-sector debt, and economic growth.

The media report the bond yield level because it is so important to the country’s economy - as important as the level of the equity market and more relevant as an indicator of the health and direction of the economy. Because of the size and crucial nature of the debt markets, a large number of market participants, ranging from bond issuers to bond investors and associated intermediaries are interested in analysing them. This chapter introduces the building blocks of the analysis.

Bonds are debt instruments that represent cash flows payable during a specified time period. They are a form of debt, much like how a bank loan is a form of debt. The cash flows they represent are the interest payments on the loan and the loan redemption. Unlike commercial bank loans, however, bonds are tradeable in a secondary market. Bonds are commonly referred to as fixed-income instruments. This term goes back to a time when bonds paid fixed coupons each year. That is no longer necessarily the case. Asset-backed bonds, for instance, are issued in a number of tranches - related securities from the same issuer - each of which pays a different fixed or floating coupon. Nevertheless, this is still commonly referred to as the fixed-income market.

In the first edition of this book I wrote:

Unlike bank loans however bonds can be traded in a market.

Actually, the first part of this statement cannot really be said to be accurate anymore. There is a thriving secondary market, certainly for US dollar and pound sterling loans, in bank loans these days. However, it is viewed as a separate market, and is not as liquid as the bond market.1 We will not discuss it in this book. However, I made this statement originally to highlight the key feature of bonds: they are tradeable after being issued.

A bond is a debt capital market instrument issued by a borrower, who is then required to repay to the lender/investor the amount borrowed plus interest, over a specified period of time. Usually, bonds are considered to be those debt securities with terms to maturity of over 1 year. Debt issued with a maturity of less than 1 year is considered to be money market debt. There are many different types of bonds that can be issued. The most common bond is the conventional (or plain vanilla or bullet) bond. This is a bond paying a regular (annual or semiannual) fixed interest rate over a fixed period to maturity or redemption, with the return of principal (the par or nominal value of the bond) on the maturity date. All other bonds will be variations on this.

There is a wide range of parties involved in the bond markets. We can group them broadly into borrowers and investors, plus the institutions and individuals who are part of the business of bond trading. Borrowers access the bond markets as part of their financing requirements; hence, borrowers can include sovereign governments, local authorities, public-sector organisations and corporates. Virtually all businesses operate with a financing structure that is a mixture of debt and equity finance. The debt finance almost invariably contains a form of bond finance, so it is easy to see what an important part of the global economy the bond markets are. As we shall see in the following chapters, there is a range of types of debt that can be raised to meet the needs of individual borrowers, from short-term paper issued as part of a company’s cash flow requirements, to very long-dated bonds that form part of the financing of key projects. An example of the latter was the issue in the summer of 2005 of 50-year bonds by the UK government. The other main category of market participant are investors, those who lend money to borrowers by buying their bonds. Investors range from private individuals to fund managers such as those who manage pensions funds. Often an institution will be active in the markets as both a borrower and an investor. The banks and securities houses that facilitate trading in bonds in both the primary and secondary markets are also often observed to be both borrowers and investors in bonds. The bond markets in developed countries are large and liquid, a term used to describe the ease with which it is possible to buy and sell bonds. In emerging markets a debt market usually develops ahead of an equity market, led by trading in government bills and bonds. This reflects the fact that, as in developed economies, government debt is usually the largest in the domestic market and the highest quality paper available.

We look first at some important features of bonds. This is followed by a detailed look at pricing and yield. We conclude this introductory chapter with some spreadsheet illustrations.


Bonds are identified by just one or two key features.

Type of issuer A key feature of a bond is the nature of the issuer. There are four issuers of bonds: sovereign governments and their agencies, local government authorities, supranational bodies such as the World Bank, and corporations. Within the corporate bond market there is a wide range of issuers, each with differing abilities to satisfy their contractual obligations to investors. An issuer’s ability to make these payments is identified by its credit rating.

Term to maturity The term to maturity of a bond is the number of years after which the issuer will repay the obligation. During the term the issuer will also make periodic interest payments on the debt. The maturity of a bond refers to the date that the debt will cease to exist, at which time the issuer will redeem the bond by paying the principal. The practice in the market is often to refer simply to a bond’s ‘term’ or ‘maturity’. The provisions under which a bond is issued may allow either the issuer or investor to alter a bond’s term to maturity. The term to maturity is an important consideration in the make-up of a bond. It indicates the time period over w...

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