Debt Security

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What is 'Debt Security'

Debt security is any debt instrument that can be bought or sold between two parties and has basic terms defined, such as notional amount (amount borrowed), interest rate and maturity/renewal date. Debt securities include government bonds, corporate bonds, CDs, municipal bonds, preferred stock, collateralized securities (such as CDOs, CMOs, GNMAs) and zero-coupon securities.

The interest rate on a debt security is largely determined by the perceived repayment ability of the borrower; higher risks of payment default almost always lead to higher interest rates to borrow capital.

Also known as "fixed-income securities."

BREAKING DOWN 'Debt Security'

Most debt securities are traded over-the-counter, with much of the trading now conducted electronically. The total dollar value of trades conducted daily in the debt markets is much larger than that of stocks, as debt securities are held by many large institutional investors as well as governments and non-profit organizations.

Debt securities on the whole are safer investments than equity securities, but riskier than cash. Debt securities get their measure of safety by having a principal amount that is returned to the lender at the maturity date or upon the sale of the security. They are typically classified and grouped by their level of default risk, the type of issuer and income payment cycles.

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