Should You Buy Bonds at a Premium?

You buy a corporate bond at par or at a discount, right? It just seems like common sense. What would lead you to purchase a corporate bond at a premium? Actually, investors do sometimes buy fixed-income securities with coupon rates above current market rates. If interest rates are on the way up, buying a premium bond when interest rates are still relatively low represents a defensive play. The move does involve risk, however.

Bond investors pick up premium bonds for two compelling reasons. First, these securities have often provided higher yields than discount bonds or those trading near par value, plus comparatively larger net cash flows. If the above-market coupon rate goes up, the increased coupon income can be reinvested at the correspondingly higher rate. Also, these bonds often turn out to have less price sensitivity. When compared to discount bonds, their duration is lower – that is, their prices are less affected by spiking interest rates.1

Say you have a chance to buy one of two individual bonds, both with 10-year maturities. The security offered by Issuer A has a 7.0% coupon, while the security offered by Issuer B has a 4.0% coupon. At a 10-year interest rate of 5%, the bond from Issuer A carries a price of 115.59, but its duration is lower as the cash flow stemming from its coupon is comparatively higher. The discount security from Issuer B carries a price of $92.21 but is also more sensitive to interest rate increases – if interest rates are 1% a year after the purchase, the total return on the bond from Issuer B will be -2.08% for that year. Compare that to -1.42% for the premium bond from Issuer A.1

The big drawback in buying one of these debt instruments is the risk that the bond might be called before it matures – that is, the issuer repurchases the bond at par value (or close) and then reissues a new bond with a less attractive coupon. If the issuer exercises the call option, then you are out your principal. (The upside is that when interest rates move higher, the odds of a call get longer. If interest rates decline, you face another potential hazard: the prospect of your cash inflows being reinvested at lower interest rates.)1,2

Downgrade, default and event risks go hand in hand with corporate and municipal bonds, yet it is possible to buy some without call features and/or sinking fund provisions (through which an issuer may “retire” a bond before its maturity date).1,2

From a defensive standpoint, premium bonds usually don’t depreciate or appreciate as much as many bonds do when interest rates rise or fall. So they present a bond investor with potential for stability – a nice feature when interest rates are poised to move.

Russell Bailyn
Wealth Manager
Premier Wealth Advisors, LLC
14 E 60th Street, #402
New York, NY 10022
P: 212-752-4343 *231
F: 212-752-7673
rbailyn@pfawealth.com

Securities offered through: First Allied Securities, Inc., a registered Broker/Dealer. Member: FINRA/SIPC. Financial Planning offered through First Allied Advisory Services & Premier Wealth Advisors, Inc. Premier Wealth Advisors, Inc is a Registered Investment Advisor. First Allied Securities & Premier Wealth Advisors, Inc. are not affiliated entities.

Investing in bonds may expose the investor to numerous risks including, but not limited to, higher interest rates, economic downturn, credit rating downgrades for issuers, decline of the bond market, and defaults of principal or interest. Interest rates and bond prices typically move in opposite directions, with prices of fixed-rate bonds falling as market interest rates rise and vice versa.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – raymondjames.com/fixed_income_premium_bonds.htm [3/8/13]
2 – voices.yahoo.com/cushion-bonds-increased-potential-return-5380721.html [2/2/10]
3 – hjsims.com/resources-and-tools/bond-basics/understanding-the-risks-of-corporate-bonds/ [1/20/14]

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