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What are Bonds?
A bond is the most common type of fixed-income security, it is a debt instrument that makes a series of fixed interest payments regularly, and pays the principal amount on the maturity date. Entities such as governments and corporations issue bonds to finance various projects. At its core a bond is just a loan that investors make to the bond’s issuers.
When the bond is first issued its value is basically the amount being loaned, called the face value of the bond. In exchange for this loan the investor gets regular interest, known as the coupon. Bonds are issued for a specified period. This duration can be a year, three years, five years, 30 years and above. When the bond matures, the issuer repays the loan to the investor.
Then there are quasi-government entities. These entities are not under direct obligation of a central bank or the national governments. For instance, the Federal National Mortgage Association or Fannie Mae.
Supranational entities operate globally. The European investment Bank, The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are some examples.
Then there are bonds that do not have a maturity date called, perpetual bonds. They pay interest, but don't carry any promises of repaying the principal amount.
The par value of a bond is a principal amount that is repaid to the investor at maturity. It is also known by other terms such as face value and redemption value. Par value is quoted as a percentage of par. For instance, a bond with a par value of $1000, quoted at 98, will be selling for $980.
Some bonds pay annual coupons while there are those that pay semiannual, quarterly or monthly interest payments. A $1000 par value semiannual pay bond with 5% coupon will pay 2.5% of $1000 or $25 every six months. Please note that there are bonds whose coupon rate varies throughout their tenure. If a bond has a fixed coupon rate it's called plain-vanilla bond or conventional bond.
There are special types of bonds that do not pay any coupon payment before maturity, called pure discount or zero-coupon bonds. Such bonds are sold at a discount to par value, hence the term pure discount. The interest accumulates till maturity, then it is repaid to the investor along with the par value. For instance, a 10 year $1000 zero-coupon bond with 7% yield would initially sell at around $500, and then it will pay $1000 to the bondholder at maturity.
As there are different currencies, so are the bonds denominated in those currencies. A dual currency bond makes coupon payments in one currency and repays the principal in another. While a currency option bond gives the investor or the bondholder a choice to choose a pair of currencies in which they would like to receive payments.
Bonds are subject to different regulations and legal requirements, which depend on factors such as their place of issue and the place where they are traded at. A bond issued by a firm domiciled in a country, and also traded in that country's currency is called a domestic bond.
If a firm, incorporated in a foreign country, issues a bond that trades on the national bond market of another country in that country's currency is called a foreign bond. For instance, if a foreign firm issues bonds denominated in yuan (yoo-an) that trade in China, are foreign bonds, and are known as panda bonds. Similarly, if a firm is incorporated outside of the United States and issues a bond denominated in US dollar and trades in the United States it’s also a foreign bond, known as a Yankee bond.
Euro bonds are issued outside the jurisdiction of any one country, and denominated in a currency different from the currency of the countries in which these are sold. Initially, Eurobonds were created to avoid US regulations. These bonds should not be confused with bonds denominated in euro currency or domiciled in Europe, although they can be both. An example of a Eurobond would be a bond issued by a Chinese firm denominated in the Japanese yen and traded in markets outside of Japan.
Global bonds are sold inside as well as outside the country in whose currency they are denominated. For instance, a dollar global bond will trade in New York which will be its domestic bond market as well as in Tokyo which will be its Eurobond market.
Euro bonds are known by the currency they are denominated in for instance a Eurobond denominated in US dollar is called a Eurodollar bond, similarly a euro yen bond is denominated in yen. Most euro bonds are issued in bearer form, which means that their ownership is evidenced simply by the possession of the bonds. In registered bonds however, the ownership is recorded. Hence, bearer bonds are more popular among folks looking to avoid taxes.