To access the bond analysis tool:
- Click the “Analysis” button on the top left of the Investments tab.
- Click the “Bonds” button on the right.
You’ll see a grid similar to the socks analysis tool. The vertical axis represents the quality of the bond, i.e. the credit rating.
- High: These bonds have a credit rating that is AA- or higher.
- Medium: These bonds have credit ratings less than AA-, but greater or equal to BBB-
- Low: These bonds have credit ratings that are below BBB-.
Bond quality gives you an idea of how likely you are to be paid back by the entity that loaned you money. Bond credit ratings range from AAA to C or sometimes even D, with AA+ being lower than AAA, AA- being lower than AA, and so on. The highest rating means you are almost certain to get your money back, plus interest. A very low rating means there is a significant chance you won’t get all your money back.
The horizontal axis measures the duration of the bond. Duration is one of those things that is quite complicated, but what it’s trying to measure is fairly simple to understand: risk. Bonds with a short duration are generally less risky than bonds with a longer duration.
More specifically, longer-term bonds are more likely to be negatively affected by changes in the interest rate set by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Higher interest rates cause bonds to lose value, while lower interest rates will cause bonds to lose less. So, a bond with a long duration is more likely to be negatively affected by an increase in the interest rate.
ℹ️ — The duration and maturity of a bond are not the same thing. They are related, however. The details are complex, but just remember that a bond’s duration is always equal to or shorter than its maturity.
There are no exact numbers for what counts as a limited, moderate, or extensive duration, as these levels are calculated on a floating basis according to market conditions. But a good general guide is this:
- Limited: The bond’s duration is roughly 3 years or less.
- Moderate: The bond’s duration is between roughly 4 and 7 years.
- Extensive: The bond’s duration is longer than roughly 7 years.