Bond Quotes: How to read and understand bond quotes

A bond quote is the price at which a bond is trading. It’s expressed as a percentage of par value. A bond quote above 100 means the bond is trading above par.

We’re glad that you’re up to speed on bond indices. Next up: bond quotes!

What is a Bond Quote?

A bond quote is the price at which a bond is trading. It’s usually expressed as a percentage of par value. The price that someone is willing to pay for the bond is given in relation to 100 (or par value). A bond quote above that means that the bond is trading above par and vice versa for a bond quote below 100.

Bond Quote Tools

Getting any information about a bond issue is simply harder than getting that of a stock or a mutual fund. There just isn’t a lot of individual investor demand for the information, so most bond info is available only through higher-level tools. These tools are not always accessible to the average investor. This makes finding bond quotes tricky for the average Joe.

The first place to look for bond information is your brokerage account’s firm. They’ll have research tools like bond quotes, and will usually give you access to them.

There are also free tools available that provide some basic information, like the Yahoo! Bond Center.

How to Read Bond Quotes

Bond quotes are seen either as a percentage of the bond’s face value or as a dollar value. Corporate bonds are quoted in 1/8th increments while government bonds are typically quoted in 1/32nds. Municipal bonds may be quoted on a dollar basis or on a yield-to-maturity basis.

There are three different ways that you will see bond prices quoted:

1. As a percentage of face value

Bonds are generally quoted as percentage of face value ($1,000).  For example, a bond selling at 950 would be selling at 95% of its face value – and would therefore be quoted at 95.

2. By their yield

“The 2 year US Treasury jumped 10 basis to 2.12% yield.”

What the heck does that mean?

So “2 year Treasury” describes the bond being traded.

“Jumped 10 Basis Points” with bonds, price and yield have an inverse relationship, so an increase in yield means the price of the bond dropped.

“2.15% yield” – The 2.15% is the yield to maturity based on the current market price. By talking about yield instead of price, it’s easier to compare different bonds.

3. As a spread against treasuries

Think of it as the difference between the bond’s yield and the yield of a treasury with a comparable maturity. If a trader is offering a corporate bond at  “+155” and the yield of the comparable treasury is 2.00%, the yield on the corporate bond would be 3.55%.

It’s a lot to take in – we hear you! If you’re interested in bond quotes and want to learn more, check out our Investing in Different Markets course.


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