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Corporate Bond

A type of financial product issued by a corporation and sold to investors to raise outside capital. The investor receives a predetermined amount of interest payments at either a fixed or variable interest rate in exchange for providing the firm with the money it requires. The bond "reaches maturity" when it stops making payments and the initial investment is refunded. The ability of the corporation to repay the bond often serves as its security, and this ability is based on its expectations for future revenues and profitability. Physical assets of the corporation may occasionally be utilized as collateral.

What Is a Corporate Bond?
A corporate bond is a type of debt security issued by a corporation and sold to investors. The company gets the capital it needs and in return, the investor is paid a pre-established number of interest payments at either a fixed or variable interest rate. When the bond expires, or "reaches maturity," the payments cease and the original investment is returned.

The backing for the bond is generally the ability of the company to repay, which depends on its prospects for future revenues and profitability. In some cases, the company's physical assets may be used as collateral.

Understanding Corporate Bonds
In the investment hierarchy, high-quality corporate bonds are considered a relatively safe and conservative investment. Investors building balanced portfolios often add bonds in order to offset riskier investments such as growth stocks. Over a lifetime, these investors tend to add more bonds and fewer risky investments in order to safeguard their accumulated capital. Retirees often invest a larger portion of their assets in bonds in order to establish a reliable income supplement.

In general, corporate bonds are considered to have a higher risk than U.S. government bonds. As a result, interest rates are almost always higher on corporate bonds, even for companies with top-flight credit quality. The difference between the yields on highly-rated corporate bonds and U.S. Treasuries is called the credit spread.

Corporate Bond Ratings
Before being issued to investors, bonds are reviewed for the creditworthiness of the issuer by one or more of three U.S. rating agencies: Standard & Poor's Global Ratings, Moody's Investor Services, and Fitch Ratings. Each has its own ranking system, but the highest-rated bonds are commonly referred to as "Triple-A" rated bonds. The lowest-rated corporate bonds are called high-yield bonds due to their greater interest rate applied to compensate for their higher risk. These are also known as "junk" bonds.

How Corporate Bonds Are Sold
Corporate bonds are issued in blocks of $1,000 in face or par value. Almost all have a standard coupon payment structure. Typically a corporate issuer will enlist the help of an investment bank to underwrite and market the bond offering to investors.

The investor receives regular interest payments from the issuer until the bond matures. At that point, the investor reclaims the face value of the bond. The bonds may have a fixed interest rate or a rate that floats according to the movements of a particular economic indicator.

Corporate bonds sometimes have call provisions to allow for early prepayment if prevailing interest rates change so dramatically that the company deems it can do better by issuing a new bond.

Investors may also opt to sell bonds before they mature. If a bond is sold, the owner gets less than face value. The amount it is worth is determined primarily by the number of payments that still are due before the bond matures.

Investors may also gain access to corporate bonds by investing in any number of bond-focused mutual funds or ETFs.

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