What is the 'Interest Rate Risk'
The interest rate risk is the risk that an investment's value will change due to a change in the absolute level of interest rates, in the spread between two rates, in the shape of the yield curve, or in any other interest rate relationship. Such changes usually affect securities inversely and can be reduced by diversifying (investing in fixedincome securities with different durations) or hedging (such as through an interest rate swap).
BREAKING DOWN 'Interest Rate Risk'
Interest rate risk affects the value of bonds more directly than stocks, and it is a major risk to all bondholders. As interest rates rise, bond prices fall, and vice versa. The rationale is that as interest rates increase, the opportunity cost of holding a bond decreases, since investors are able to realize greater yields by switching to other investments that reflect the higher interest rate. For example, a 5% bond is worth more if interest rates decrease, since the bondholder receives a fixed rate of return relative to the market, which is offering a lower rate of return as a result of the decrease in rates.Market Interest Rates
Interest rate risk is most relevant to fixedincome securities whereby a potential increase in market interest rates is a risk to the value of fixedincome securities. When market interest rates increase, prices on previously issued fixedincome securities as traded in the market decline, since potential investors are now more inclined to buy new securities that offer higher rates. Only by having lower selling prices can past securities with lower rates become competitive with securities issued after market interest rates have turned higher.
Price Sensitivity
The value of existing fixedincome securities with different maturities declines by various degrees when market interest rates rise. This is referred to as price sensitivity, meaning that prices on securities of certain maturity lengths are more sensitive to increases in market interest rates, resulting in sharper declines in their security values.
For example, suppose there are two fixedincome securities, one maturing in one year and the other in 10 years. When market interest rates rise, holders of the oneyear security could quickly reinvest in a higherrate security after having a lower return for only one year. Holders of the 10year security would be stuck with a lower rate for 9 more years, justifying a comparably lower security value than shorterterm securities to attract willing buyers. The longer a security's maturity, the more its price declines to a given increase in interest rates.
Maturity Risk Premium
The greater price sensibility of longerterm securities leads to higher interest rate risk for those securities. To compensate investors for taking on more risk, the expected rates of return on longerterm securities are normally higher than on shorterterm securities. This extra rate of return is called maturity risk premium, which is higher with longer years to maturity. Along with other risk premiums, such as default risk premiums and liquidity risk premiums, maturity risk premiums help determine rates offered on securities of different maturities beyond varied credit and liquidity conditions.

FixedIncome Security
An investment that provides a return in the form of fixed periodic ... 
Basis Price
Price quotation for a security expressed in terms of yield to ... 
Treasury Note
A marketable U.S. government debt security with a fixed interest ... 
Bond Ladder
A portfolio of fixedincome securities in which each security ... 
Contraction Risk
The risk faced by the holder of a fixed income security when ... 
Reinvestment Rate
The amount of interest that can be earned when money is taken ...

Investing
What are FixedIncome Securities?
For a fixedincome security, the periodic return on the investment is the same throughout the life of the security. Principal is returned at the time of maturity. The payment can be in the form ... 
Financial Advisor
The Effect of Fed Fund Rate Hikes on Your Bond Portfolio
Learn how an increase in the federal funds rate may impact a bond portfolio. Read about how investors can use the duration of their portfolio to reduce risk. 
Investing
Key Strategies To Avoid Negative Bond Returns
It is difficult to make money in bonds in a rising rate environment, but there are ways to avoid losses. 
Investing
How Interest Rates Affect Mutual Funds
Find out how changing interest rates impact mutual funds, including bond and money market funds, and how higher rates can discourage investors. 
Financial Advisor
Rising Rates: What It'll Mean for Stocks and Bonds
A look at what rising interest rates could mean for the equity and bond markets. 
Investing
What's a Debt Security?
A debt security is a financial instrument issued by a company (usually a publicly traded corporation) and sold to an investor. 
Investing
Understanding Interest Rates, Inflation And Bonds
Get to know the relationships that determine a bond's price and its payout. 
Investing
Lowering Portfolio Volatility With Certain Bond ETFs (AGG, BND)
Learn about how overall portfolio risk can be reduced by adding a variety of different types of bond ETFs to a primarily stock portfolio. 
Investing
How Rising Interest Rates Affect Junk Bonds
We examine the impact of rising interest rates on higheryielding bonds.

What are the main disadvantages of fixed income securities?
Learn why fixedincome securities, despite offering the luxury of guaranteed, regular cash payments, confer several disadvantages ... Read Answer >> 
What types of investors are susceptible to interest rate risk?
Learn how bondholders are more susceptible to interest rate risk than equity investors because of the direct correlation ... Read Answer >> 
How can an investor reduce interest rate risk?
Learn about the different ways investors can reduce interest rate risk. Locking in interest rates increases certainty for ... Read Answer >>