A:

There are two primary reasons a bond might be worth less than its listed face value. A savings bond, for example, is sold at a discount to its face value and steadily appreciates in price as the bond approaches its maturity date. Upon maturity, the bond is redeemed for the full face value. Other types of tradeable bonds are sold on the secondary market, and their valuations depend on the relationship between yields and interest rates, among other factors.

All bonds are redeemed at face value when they reach maturity unless there is a default by the issuer. Many bonds pay interest to the bondholder at specific intervals between the date of purchase and the date of maturity. However, certain bonds do not provide the owner with periodic interest payments. Instead, these bonds are sold at a discount to their face values, and they become more and more valuable until they reach maturity.

Not all bondholders hold onto their bonds until maturity. In the secondary market, bond prices can fluctuate dramatically. Bonds compete with all other interest-bearing investments. The market price of a bond is influenced by investor demand, the timing of interest payments, the quality of the bond issuer, and any differences between the bond's current yield and other returns in the market.

For instance, consider a $1,000 bond that has a 5% coupon. Its current yield is 5%, or $50 / $1000. If the market interest rate paid on other comparable investments is 6%, no one is going to purchase the bond at $1,000 and earn a lower return for his or her money. The price of the bond then drops on the open market. Given a 6% market interest rate, the bond ends up being priced at $833.33. The coupon is still $50, but the yield for the bond is 6% ($50 / $833.33).

RELATED FAQS
  1. What determines the price of a bond in the open market?

    Learn more about some of the factors that influence the valuation of bonds on the open market, and why bond prices and yields ... Read Answer >>
  2. What happens to the price of a premium bond as it approaches maturity?

    Learn how bonds trade in regard to premiums and discounts, and how bond prices shift closer to par value as bonds approach ... Read Answer >>
  3. What causes a bond's price to rise?

    Learn about factors that influence the price of a bond, such as interest rate changes, credit rating, yield and overall market ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Corporate Bond Basics: Learn to Invest

    Understand the basics of corporate bonds to increase your chances of positive returns.
  2. Investing

    How To Choose The Right Bond For You

    Bond investing is a stable and low-risk way to diversify a portfolio. However, knowing which types of bonds are right for you is not always easy.
  3. Investing

    Corporate Bonds: Advantages and Disadvantages

    Corporate bonds can provide compelling returns, even in low-yield environments. But they are not without risk.
  4. Investing

    The Basics Of Bonds

    Bonds play an important part in your portfolio as you age; learning about them makes good financial sense.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Simple Math for Fixed-Coupon Corporate Bonds

    A guide to help to understand the simple math behind fixed-coupon corporate bonds.
  6. Investing

    Top 6 Uses For Bonds

    We break down the stodgy stereotype to see what these investments can do for you.
  7. Investing

    5 Fixed Income Plays After the Fed Rate Increase

    Learn about various ways that you can adjust a fixed income investment portfolio to mitigate the potential negative effect of rising interest rates.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Bond

    A debt investment in which an investor loans money to an entity ...
  2. Discount Bond

    A bond that is issued for less than its par (or face) value, ...
  3. Bond Ladder

    A portfolio of fixed-income securities in which each security ...
  4. Term Bond

    Bonds from the same issue that share the same maturity dates. ...
  5. Reverse Convertible Bond - RCB

    A bond that can be converted to cash, debt or equity at the discretion ...
  6. Current Yield

    Annual income (interest or dividends) divided by the current ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Stagflation

    A condition of slow economic growth and relatively high unemployment - a time of stagnation - accompanied by a rise in prices, ...
  2. Notional Value

    The total value of a leveraged position's assets. This term is commonly used in the options, futures and currency markets ...
  3. Interest Expense

    The cost incurred by an entity for borrowed funds. Interest expense is a non-operating expense shown on the income statement. ...
  4. Call Option

    An agreement that gives an investor the right (but not the obligation) to buy a stock, bond, commodity, or other instrument ...
  5. Pro-Rata

    Used to describe a proportionate allocation. A method of assigning an amount to a fraction, according to its share of the ...
  6. Private Placement

    The sale of securities to a relatively small number of select investors as a way of raising capital.
Trading Center