What Is a Bond Quote in Investing?

Bond Quote Explained

Definition

A bond quote is the price as a percentage of the face value or “par” value. Bond quotes also include important information for investors about maturity date, coupon rate, and yield.

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Key Takeaways

  • Bond quotes are the price as a percentage of par (“face”) value.
  • Most individual bonds are bought and sold “over the counter,” not on an exchange.
  • Bond quotes are based on recent transactions and may not be the actual price.

A bond quote is the price as a percentage of the face value or “par” value. Bond quotes also include important information for investors about maturity date, coupon rate, and yield.

Unlike the stock market, however, real-time bond quotes aren’t readily available for individual investors. Here’s what you need to know about bond quotes and how to compare them.

Definition and Examples of a Bond Quote

Bond quotes reflect the income investors can expect to receive from an investment in a bond. A bond quote typically includes a description of the bond, the bond’s price, yield, maturity date, and coupon rate. 

For example, you may find a callable bond with a price of 103, a yield of 2.163, a maturity date of March 3, 2027, and a coupon rate of 2.95.

Note

The actual price that you pay for a bond can differ significantly from the quote, depending on what is available, the size of your order, and market conditions.

How Bond Quotes Work

A typical bond quote looks like this:

Description Price Yield To Worst Maturity Date Coupon
XYZ callable 12/26 @100 Senior unsecured Semi-annual pay 103 2.311 03/03/2027 2.95

Each facet of the bond quote represents key information about the bond: 

  • Description: Includes the name of the issuer, earliest date the bond can be called, call price, type of bond, and frequency of interest payments
  • Offer price: This is the price the bond is currently selling at. It is a percentage of the face value of the bond. Face value is the amount of money the bond owner is paid by the issuer at maturity.
  • Yield to worst: The rate of return the investor can expect when the bond matures or the earliest date it can be called. Yield to worst is based on the offer price, including premiums or discounts. Yield to worst is generally higher or lower than the coupon rate.
  • Maturity date: The date the bond matures, paying the par value to the investor.
  • Coupon: Periodic interest income paid by the issuer.

Note

Most corporate bonds have a face value of $1,000, while Treasury bonds are available at face values as low as $100. Bonds that are selling above 100 are premium bonds, while bonds selling below 100 are sold at a “discount.”

Some bond quotes include a bid/ask instead of just the ask price. The “bid” is the price that you can sell the bond for in the market. The bid/ask of a bond quote is based on the latest transactions and isn’t necessarily the price you get.

Getting Bond Quotes

There is no central exchange for the bond market that shows current real-time bid/ask prices like there is for stocks, options, and commodities. While there are a few corporate bonds listed on the stock exchanges, most are not. Instead, they usually trade over the counter between dealers who specialize in various types of bonds. Dealers buy bonds and resell them at a markup to clients and other dealers. 

To search for bonds and get bond quotes, you typically need to contact a broker-dealer. Even then, the quote you get is only an estimate of the bond’s price. The price you actually get can change based on the size of the trade, availability, and other market conditions. 

The most reliable quote for an individual bond will come from a representative on the bond desk at your broker-dealer. The bond quote includes the broker dealer’s markup—keep in mind that broker-dealers don’t always have to tell you what their markup is.

Note

All firms regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) are required to report bond trades are reported to FINRA’s TRACE system within 15 minutes. More than 80% of trades are reported within five minutes, according to FINRA. The TRACE system is available here to all investors. You can use the TRACE system to compare your quote to recent prices paid for the bond.

Types of Bond Quotes

How a bond quote looks may vary depending on the type of bond it’s quoting.

Corporate Bonds

Corporate bond prices are quoted as a percentage of a $1,000 face value quoted in 1/8ths (.125%) increments to the right of the decimal. A corporate bond with a Par Value of $1,000 and a price quoted at 101 3/8 would convert to 101.375 and is selling for $1,013.75.

Treasury Notes and Bonds

Treasury notes and bonds are quoted in 1/32 (.03125%) increments per $100 of face value. A 10-year Treasury bond price 101 16/32, would convert to a decimal of 101.50 and would cost $101.50 each.

Treasury Bills (T-BIlls)

Treasury bills have a term of one year or less and don’t have a coupon rate, they are sold at a discount to a face amount of $100. The price is quoted as a percentage of face value. A $1,000 T-Bill quoted at 99.865 would have a price of $998.65.

What It Means for Individual Investors

Bonds can be an important part of your investment portfolio. For most investors, mutual funds and ETFs (exchange-traded funds) are an easy way to invest in the bond market. Unlike the stock market, most bond market transactions are over the counter between dealers and individuals.

Quotes for individual bonds are not the real-time price—they’re based on the last reported transaction. If researching and purchasing individual bonds are part of your investing strategy, FINRA’s TRACE system can be a valuable tool to help you determine how much you should be paying.

Note

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Corporate Bonds."

  2. TreasuryDirect. "Treasury Bonds."

  3.  Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. “TRACE: The Source for Real-Time Bond Market Transaction Data,” Page 2.

  4. Morningstar. “How to Read a Bond Tab

  5.  TreasuryDirect. “Treasury Bills in Depth."

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