The Federal Reserve has been making headlines recently, especially regarding speculation as to when the institution may finally decide to start raising interest rates. In December of 2008, when the market was in freefall, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near 0%, a rate at which it has stayed. It is hard to believe that was almost five years ago; at some point in time, rates are certain to start going up.
While the stock market has done well since March of 2009, a well-balanced portfolio needs an allocation to bonds or fixed income, especially for investors at or nearing retirement. With our economy inching forward, interest rates may increase sooner rather than later, making it a perfect time to present some websites where you can find information on bonds.
FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) is the largest independent regulator of securities firms in the United States. The Bond section of the FINRA website, found on the Investors page under Market Data, includes general bond market information such as news, benchmark yields, and corporate bond market activity. Additionally, the bond page provides performance and descriptive data on U.S. Treasury, agency, corporate and municipal bonds; credit rating information from major rating agencies; and price information with real-time transaction prices for corporate and agency bonds, and municipal bonds, as well as end-of-day prices for U.S. Treasury bonds.
Users can search for various types of bonds by issuer, symbol or CUSIP. The results are displayed along with coupon payment, maturity, ratings and last sale price. After you find a bond, clicking on the symbol will bring up a bevy of additional classification data.
An advanced bond search function operates as a bond screener. Users can input debt or asset class (Treasury, corporate, municipal or securitized products), issuer or bond type, coupon and interest, maturity date and ratings and credit; they can also select whether the bond includes or excludes options.
Yahoo! Finance Bonds Center
The Yahoo! Finance Bonds Center lists the current U.S. Treasury bond rates on the main page along with a market summary and top news. Bond market news is provided by Briefing.com and includes news on the Fed and interest rates. Composite bond rates are given for municipal and corporate bonds across all credit ratings.
A bond screener allows you to select a type of bond to search for: Treasury, Treasury zero-coupon, corporate or municipal (by state). In addition, there are seven data points for narrowing down a search, where you select the minimum and maximum values.
The bond lookup tool allows you to search for a bond by its name. If you are unsure of the name, typing in the issuer will provide bonds that are issued by that particular entity. Data on the bond is provided by ValuBond and includes price, coupon rate, maturity date, yield-to-maturity, current yield, Fitch rating and callability.
Yahoo! Finance’s useful Education Center includes a section on bonds. Basic learning tools describe what bonds are, what you can expect from a change in interest rates and the risk versus reward aspects of investing in bonds. For more advanced bond education, articles on bond laddering and global bonds are also available.
Wall Street Journal Online
The Wall Street Journal Online’s bond section, found under Markets, is very robust. The main page lists the Treasury yields for each maturity length and provides recent price change. Current consumer money rates such as the prime rate, 30-year fixed mortgage rate, home-equity loan rate and 48-month new car loan rate are listed on the main page, along with their 52-week highs and lows. In addition, offerings of the major global government agencies are listed with their yields. Links to coupons and yields for guaranteed investment contracts, mortgage-backed securities, tax-exempt bonds, TIPS and Treasury STRIPS are all provided, as is a weekly snapshot of the key rates.
A bond calendar reports upcoming Treasury, municipal and corporate bond offerings. For municipal and corporate bonds, the website also provides the total offering amount, maturity and ratings from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (Fitch for municipal bonds).
Finally, WSJ Online offers a section on government data and the Federal Reserve. Links to Federal Reserve monetary data, Federal Reserve interest rates and a weekly snapshot of key interest rates are all available.
Morningstar.com’s Bond section has not been featured here before, but has improved over the recent years and is now worth mentioning. The best two features of the bond area are the bond strategies and insights and the ratings that Morningstar’s analysts provide.
The main Bond page includes the latest Bond Strategist column. There is a new article every week that gives a solid review of the bond markets. In addition, all bond articles are archived and a link to the archive is provided on the landing page.
Morningstar now provides its own credit ratings for individual companies, shown in the bonds tab of a company’s profile page.
The bonds tab of individual stocks shows the company’s current and historical capital structure. In addition, it lists the company’s current outstanding bonds along with maturity dates, amount, price, coupon rate and whether the bonds are optionable. Debt and coverage ratios are also provided at the bottom of the page.