Fixed Income Investments - Differentiating Between Spreads

The nominal spread is simply the difference in basis points between the Treasury and non-treasury security. For example, if the Stone & Co. bonds have a yield of 5.5% and the comparable Treasury security has a yield of 4.5% the nominal spread is 100 bps. (5.5% - 4.5%).

  • Zero-Volatility Spread or Z-spread
    This measures the spread the investor would capture over the entire Treasury spot- rate curve if the bond was held to maturity. The Z-spread is calculated as the spread that will make the present value of cash flows from the non-treasury security when they are discounted at the Treasury spot rates plus the Z-spread equal to the non-Treasury securities price. This is done by trial and error. This is different than the nominal spread because the nominal spread just uses one point on the curve.

    For example, take the spot curve and add 50 basis points to each rate on the curve. If the two year spot rate is 3%, the rate you would use to find the present value of that cash flow would be 3.50%. After you have calculated all of the present values for the cash flows, add them up and see whether they equal the bonds price. If they do, then you have found the Z-spread, if not, you have to go back to the drawing board and use a new spread until the present value of those cash flows equals the bonds price.

  • Option-Adjusted Spread (OAS)
    This takes the dollar difference between the fair price and the market price and converts it into a yield measure. The OAS helps reconcile the value to market price by finding a spread that will equate the two. This is also done on a trial-and-error basis and is very model dependent.
    Remember:
  1. Interest rate volatility is critical. The higher the volatility, the lower the OAS. Check this assumption when making comparisons.
  2. The OAS is a spread over the Treasury spot-rate curve or benchmark that is used in the analysis.
  3. As the name implies, the security's embedded option can change the cash flows and the value of the security should take this change in account. The difference between the OAS And the Z-spread is that the Z-spread doesn't take this into consideration.
  • Option Cost
    This cost can be derived by calculating the difference between the OAS at the assumed interest rate or yield volatile and the Z-spread.
    Z-spread = OAS + option cost
    Therefore,
    Option Cost = Z-spread - OAS
    The option cost is measured in this way because if rates do not change, the investor would earn the Z-spread. When future rates are uncertain, the speed tends to be different because of the embedded option. The option cost for a callable bond and most MBS and ABS securities are positive. This is because the issuer's ability to alter the bond's cash flows will result in an OAS that is less than the Z-spread. For puttable bonds the option cost is negative because of the investor's ability to alter the cash flows.
What are Forward Rates?
Related Articles
  1. Career Education & Resources

    How Hard are the CFA Exams?

    Learn about the difficulty of the CFA exams with a description of the tests, some statistics on pass rates and suggestions that can help you pass the exams.
  2. Professionals

    What it Takes to be a Financial Analyst

    A financial analyst researches companies and economic conditions to make business, sector and industry recommendations.
  3. Career Education & Resources

    Financial Analyst: Career Path & Qualifications

    Read about what it takes to become a financial analyst in a corporation or securities firm, and learn how far you can rise in the profession.
  4. Career Education & Resources

    Financial Planner: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn what education and certifications you need to become a financial planner, as well as the future prospects and earnings potential for financial planners.
  5. Career Education & Resources

    Where to Find Non-Profit Finance Jobs

    The non-profit sector offers a stable selection of jobs for those who seek other types of fulfillment from their jobs than just purely financial.
  6. Career Education & Resources

    Portfolio Manager: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn about the basic requirements for getting hired as a portfolio manager, and discover how most professionals in the field rise into the position.
  7. Your Practice

    4 Professional Associations Advisors Should Join

    These four professional organizations are among the most respected and well known in the industry.
  8. Professionals

    Equity Research: Career Path and Qualifications

    Find out what equity research analysts do on a day-to-day basis, and learn more about the typical career progression for these securities professionals.
  9. Professionals

    What's on the CFA Level II Exam?

    The Chartered Financial Analyst Level II exam is the second of three tests that CFA candidates must pass.
  10. Professionals

    Financial Data Analyst: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn more about the career options available to financial data analysts, and determine whether the profession is a good match for you.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Personal Financial Advisor

    Professionals who help individuals manage their finances by providing ...
  2. CFA Institute

    Formerly known as the Association for Investment Management and ...
  3. Security Analyst

    A financial professional who studies various industries and companies, ...
  4. Chartered Financial Analyst - CFA

    A professional designation given by the CFA Institute (formerly ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What are the differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified ...

    The differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) are many, but comes down ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

    According to the CFA Institute, a person who holds a CFA charter is not a chartered financial analyst. The CFA Institute ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What types of positions might a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) hold?

    The types of positions that a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is likely to hold include any position that deals with large ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Who benefits the most from prepaid expenses?

    Prepaid expenses benefit both businesses and individuals. Prepaid expenses are the types of expenses that are bought or paid ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. If I am looking to get an Investment Banking job. What education do employers prefer? ...

    If you are looking specifically for an investment banking position, an MBA may be marginally preferable over the CFA. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I still pass the CFA Level I if I do poorly in the ethics section?

    You may still pass the Chartered Financial Analysis (CFA) Level I even if you fare poorly in the ethics section, but don't ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  2. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  3. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  4. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
  5. Dark Pool Liquidity

    The trading volume created by institutional orders that are unavailable to the public. The bulk of dark pool liquidity is ...
Trading Center