How to Read Treasury Bond Prices

by Victoria Duff Google

    Treasury bond quotes may appear confusing, but if you understand a few of the basics, they give you all the information you need to make an investing decision. A typical 10-year U.S. Treasury note is the 1.625 percent notes due Nov. 15, 2022. The 1.625 percent refers to the coupon rate of interest. Nov. 15, 2022, is the maturity date. If the price on these notes is listed at 100, that means you pay 100 percent of the face value of the security, or $1,000. Treasury securities have $1,000 face values. At a price of 100, your yield is 1.625 percent and the interest you receive is $16.25 per year.

    Step 1

    Pretend the Treasury note referenced in the introduction is quoted at an asked price — what you would pay to buy it — of 100.2031. That quote means the dollar price is 100.2031 percent of face value, or $1,002.03 per bond. Since the dollar price for this note is slightly higher than par — what 100 is called — the yield will be lower than 1.625 percent. In fact, the yield figures out to 1.603 percent. You will still receive the annual coupon payment of $16.25 per bond, but when you pay a higher price than par the effective yield declines.

    Step 2

    Consider our example bond quoted at 99.25 asked. Your dollar price is $992.50, which is lower than par so your yield will be slightly higher than the coupon rate of 1.625 percent even though, as in Step 1, you will receive $16.25 per bond in annual interest payments.

    Step 3

    Review several different sources for Treasury quotes. Some will list the coupon first: 1.625 percent due Nov. 15, 2022. Others will list the date followed by the coupon of 1.625 percent. Another difference is in the way the price is quoted. You will find only the yield quoted in some services, such as 1.603 percent, which requires you to use a bond calculator to find the dollar price. Other services quote the price, such as 100.2031, and most will give the resulting yield of 1.603 percent, relieving you of the need to use a bond calculator.

    Tip

    • Annual interest payments, as listed by the coupon rate, do not change. The price and yield changes with the market, but you will always receive the same amount of interest payments.
    • The price examples cited in this article are for the asked side of the market. The bid side, or the price at which you can sell your bonds, is quoted in the same percentage of par. In the our example, a typical bid quote would be 100.1406 versus the asked price of 100.2031. The difference between the two prices is called the spread or dealer markup.

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    About the Author

    Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.

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