A bond quote tells you the current price and provides other information useful to investors just as quotes for stocks do. However, bonds and stocks are different securities. The string of numbers and abbreviations in a bond quote has a specific set of meanings. However, once you know how to interpret the information, bond quotes are easy to read.
Bond quotes are usually presented in a tabular format. The arrangement of bond tables will vary somewhat, but they all follow the same general pattern. Reading from left to right, you’ll see the name of the corporation or government that issued the bond, followed by the bond’s symbol, additional information and market price quotes. Since the advent of the Internet, bond quotes are often available online in real-time or nearly so. This is not always the case, however. Take a look at the explanatory material accompanying a bond table to see if the information is real-time or dates from the previous trading session.
Unlike stocks and many other securities, bond prices are not stated in dollars and cents. Instead, a bond’s price is quoted as a percentage of its par value. For example, a corporate bond might be listed at 115.375. Typically, corporate bonds have a par value of $1,000, so this bond price quote converts to a market value of $1,153.75. Occasionally you will see bond prices stated with a fraction such as 115 3/8. This quote also converts to a price of $1,153.75. Usually a bond quote includes prices for the trading session high, low and last bond trade. Alternatively, some bond tables state a bid, ask and closing price.
A bond quote gives you other helpful information in addition to prices. The coupon rate is listed. A coupon rate is the percentage of the par value the bond pays in interest each year. The date the bond matures is normally included, as is the bond’s credit rating. The maturity is the date the issuer must pay off the bond. Credit ratings are represented by one to three letters. “AAA” is the best and indicates a very safe bond. The riskiest bonds may be indicated by a “C” or D.” At the far right, the bond yield is stated. Yield is the annual percentage of the bond’s price the bond pays in interest — the effective interest rate you get if you buy the bond at the market price.
Locating Bond Quotes
There is no comprehensive listing of bond quotes — there are simply too many bond issues out there. For example, there are about 1.5 million municipal bonds on the market, according to InvestinginBonds.com. On the other hand, some bonds are listed on exchanges and you can find quotes for these bond issues reported in publications like The Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. Financial websites provide bond quotes for many bonds that trade over-the-counter. Over-the-counter bonds trade through bond dealers, rather than on exchanges. If you can’t find a quote for a particular bond you are interested in, contact your broker. She can provide you with an up-to-date bond quote.