Leaving PIMCO.com

You are now leaving the PIMCO website.

Skip to Main Content

Corporate Bonds

After government bonds, the corporate bond market is the largest section of the global bond universe. With a vast array of maturities, yields and credit quality available, investing in corporate bonds has the potential to provide higher yields than government bonds and diversification benefits for investors.
  • Coupon: The interest payments a bondholder receives until the bond matures.
  • Corporate bond: Debt instrument issued by a company, distinct from one issued by a government or government agency.
  • Credit risk: The risk of loss of principal or loss of coupon payments stemming from a borrower’s failure to repay a loan or otherwise meet a contractual obligation.
  • Credit spread: The yield differential between a corporate bond and an equivalent maturity sovereign bond. For example, if the 10-year Treasury note is trading at a yield of 2% and a 10-year corporate bond is trading at a yield of 4%, the credit spread is 2% or 200bps.
  • Fallen angel: An investment-grade company that has subsequently had its debt downgraded to speculative grade.
  • Interest rate risk: When interest rates rise, the market value of fixed-income securities (such as bonds) declines. Similarly, when interest rates decline, the market value of fixed-income securities increases.
  • Maturity: The number of years left until a bond repays its principal to investors.
  • Rising star: A company whose bond rating has been increased by a credit rating agency due to an improvement in credit quality.
  • Yield: The income return or interest received from a bond.

What are corporate bonds?

When companies want to expand operations or fund new business ventures, they often turn to the corporate bond market to borrow money. A company determines how much it would like to borrow and then issues a bond offering in that amount; investors that buy a bond are effectively lending money to the company according to the terms established in the bond offering or prospectus.

Unlike equities, ownership of corporate bonds does not signify an ownership interest in the company that has issued the bond. Instead, the company pays the investor a rate of interest over a period of time and repays the principal at the maturity date established at the time of the bond’s issue.

While some corporate bonds have redemption or call features that can affect the maturity date, most are loosely categorized into the following maturity ranges:

  • Short-term notes (with maturities of up to five years)
  • Medium-term notes (with maturities ranging between five and 12 years)
  • Long-term bonds (with maturities greater than 12 years)

In addition to maturity, corporate bonds are also categorized by credit quality. Credit rating agencies such as Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s provide independent analysis of corporate bond issuers, grading each issuer according to its creditworthiness. Corporate bond issuers with lower credit ratings tend to pay higher interest rates on their corporate bonds.

How are corporate bonds rated?

The corporate dividing line: investment-grade and speculative-grade.

Corporate bonds fall into two broad credit classifications: investment-grade and speculative-grade (or high yield) bonds. Speculative-grade bonds are issued by companies perceived to have a lower level of credit quality compared to more highly rated, investment-grade, companies. The investment-grade category has four rating grades while the speculative-grade category is comprised of six rating grades.

The table lists types of corporate bonds from investment grade (highest quality) to speculative and default (lowest quality). Separate columns list Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rating classifications from Aaa to D.

Historically, speculative-grade bonds were issued by companies that were newer, were in a particularly competitive or volatile sector or had troubling fundamentals. Today, there are also many companies whose businesses are designed to operate with the degree of leverage traditionally associated with speculative-grade companies. While a speculative-grade credit rating indicates a higher default probability, these bonds typically compensate investors for the higher risk by paying higher interest rates, or yields. Credit ratings can be downgraded if the credit quality of the issuer deteriorates or upgraded if fundamentals improve.

Fallen angels, rising stars and split ratings

“Fallen angel” is a term that describes an investment-grade company that has fallen on hard times and has subsequently had its debt downgraded to speculative grade. “Rising star” refers to a company whose bond rating has been increased by a credit rating agency due to an improvement in the credit quality of the issuer. Since the credit rating agencies’ ratings are subjective, there are also times when they do not concur on the rating – an occurrence known as a “split rating.” Fallen angels, rising stars and split ratings may all present opportunities for investors to add additional yield by assuming greater risk due to the potential volatility of their ratings.

How are corporate bonds priced?

The price of a corporate bond is influenced by several factors, including the maturity, the credit rating of the company issuing the bond and the general level of interest rates. The yield of a corporate bond fluctuates to reflect changes in the price of the bond caused by shifts in interest rates and the markets’ perception of the issuer’s credit quality. Most corporates typically have more credit risk and higher yields than government bonds of similar maturities. This divergence creates a credit spread between corporates and government bonds, so that the corporate bond investor earns extra yield by taking on greater risk. The credit spread affects the price of the bond and can be graphically plotted and measured as the difference between the yield of a corporate and government bond at each point of maturity.

The double line graph plots hypothetical credit spreads running in parallel for U.S. corporate bonds (above) and U.S. Treasuries (below) moving from lower yield to higher as maturities increase.

Why invest in corporate bonds?

Corporate bonds can offer a range of potential benefits including:

  • Diversification: Corporates offer the opportunity to invest in a variety of economic sectors. Within the broad spectrum of corporates there is a wide divergence of risk and yield. Corporate bonds can add diversification to an equity portfolio as well as diversify a fixed income portfolio of government bonds or other fixed income securities.
  • Income: Corporates have the potential to provide attractive income. Most corporate bonds pay on a fixed semiannual schedule. One exception is zero-coupon bonds, which do not pay interest but are sold at a deep discount and then redeemed for full face value at maturity. Another exception is floating-rate bonds that have fluctuating interest rates tied to a money market reference rate such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or federal funds rate. These tend to have lower yields than fixed-rate securities of comparable maturities but also less fluctuation in principal value.
  • Higher yields: Corporates tend to provide higher yields than comparable maturity government bonds.
  • Liquidity: Corporate bonds can be sold at any time prior to maturity in a large and active secondary trading market.

What are the risks?

Similar to government bonds, corporate bonds are exposed to interest rate risk. In addition, corporate bonds also have credit or default risk - the risk that the borrower fails to repay the loan and defaults on its obligation. The level of default risk varies based on the underlying credit quality of the issuer.


Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results.

The credit quality of a particular security or group of securities does not ensure the stability or safety of an overall portfolio. The quality ratings of individual issues/issuers are provided to indicate the credit-worthiness of such issues/issuer and generally range from AAA, Aaa, or AAA (highest) to D, C, or D (lowest) for S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch respectively.

A word about risk: Investing in the bond market is subject to risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit, inflation risk, and liquidity risk. The value of most bonds and bond strategies are impacted by changes in interest rates. Bonds and bond strategies with longer durations tend to be more sensitive and volatile than those with shorter durations; bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise, and the current low interest rate environment increases this risk. Current reductions in bond counterparty capacity may contribute to decreased market liquidity and increased price volatility. Bond investments may be worth more or less than the original cost when redeemed. Corporate debt securities are subject to the risk of the issuer’s inability to meet principal and interest payments on the obligation and may also be subject to price volatility due to factors such as interest rate sensitivity, market perception of the creditworthiness of the issuer and general market liquidity. Certain U.S. government securities are backed by the full faith of the government. Obligations of U.S. government agencies and authorities are supported by varying degrees but are generally not backed by the full faith of the U.S. government. Portfolios that invest in such securities are not guaranteed and will fluctuate in value. Floating rate loans are not traded on an exchange and are subject to significant credit, valuation and liquidity risk. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic and industry conditions. Diversification does not ensure against loss.

There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are suitable for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market.

It is not possible to invest directly in an unmanaged index.

This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.

PIMCO provides services only to qualified institutions and investors. This is not an offer to any person in any jurisdiction where unlawful or unauthorized. | Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, 650 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660 is regulated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. | PIMCO Investments LLC, U.S. distributor, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019 is a company of PIMCO. | PIMCO Europe Ltd (Company No. 2604517), PIMCO Europe, Ltd Amsterdam Branch (Company No. 24319743), and PIMCO Europe Ltd - Italy (Company No. 07533910969) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (25 The North Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London E14 5HS) in the U.K. The Amsterdam and Italy branches are additionally regulated by the AFM and CONSOB in accordance with Article 27 of the Italian Consolidated Financial Act, respectively. PIMCO Europe Ltd services and products are available only to professional clients as defined in the Financial Conduct Authority’s Handbook and are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication. | PIMCO Deutschland GmbH (Company No. 192083, Seidlstr. 24-24a, 80335 Munich, Germany) is authorised and regulated by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) (Marie-Curie-Str. 24-28, 60439 Frankfurt am Main) in Germany in accordance with Section 32 of the German Banking Act (KWG). The services and products provided by PIMCO Deutschland GmbH are available only to professional clients as defined in Section 31a para. 2 German Securities Trading Act (WpHG). They are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication. | PIMCO (Schweiz) GmbH (registered in Switzerland, Company No. CH-, Brandschenkestrasse 41, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland, Tel: + 41 44 512 49 10. The services and products provided by PIMCO Switzerland GmbH are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication but contact their financial adviser. | PIMCO Asia Pte Ltd (501 Orchard Road #09-03, Wheelock Place, Singapore 238880, Registration No. 199804652K) is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore as a holder of a capital markets services licence and an exempt financial adviser. The asset management services and investment products are not available to persons where provision of such services and products is unauthorised. | PIMCO Asia Limited (Suite 2201, 22nd Floor, Two International Finance Centre, No. 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong) is licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission for Types 1, 4 and 9 regulated activities under the Securities and Futures Ordinance. The asset management services and investment products are not available to persons where provision of such services and products is unauthorised. | PIMCO Australia Pty Ltd ABN 54 084 280 508, AFSL 246862 (PIMCO Australia) offers products and services to both wholesale and retail clients as defined in the Corporations Act 2001 (limited to general financial product advice in the case of retail clients). This communication is provided for general information only without taking into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investors. | PIMCO Japan Ltd (Toranomon Towers Office 18F, 4-1-28, Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 105-0001) Financial Instruments Business Registration Number is Director of Kanto Local Finance Bureau (Financial Instruments Firm) No. 382. PIMCO Japan Ltd is a member of Japan Investment Advisers Association and The Investment Trusts Association, Japan. Investment management products and services offered by PIMCO Japan Ltd are offered only to persons within its respective jurisdiction, and are not available to persons where provision of such products or services is unauthorized. Valuations of assets will fluctuate based upon prices of securities and values of derivative transactions in the portfolio, market conditions, interest rates and credit risk, among others. Investments in foreign currency denominated assets will be affected by foreign exchange rates. There is no guarantee that the principal amount of the investment will be preserved, or that a certain return will be realized; the investment could suffer a loss. All profits and losses incur to the investor. The amounts, maximum amounts and calculation methodologies of each type of fee and expense and their total amounts will vary depending on the investment strategy, the status of investment performance, period of management and outstanding balance of assets and thus such fees and expenses cannot be set forth herein. | PIMCO Canada Corp. (199 Bay Street, Suite 2050, Commerce Court Station, P.O. Box 363, Toronto, ON, M5L 1G2) services and products may only be available in certain provinces or territories of Canada and only through dealers authorized for that purpose. | PIMCO Latin America Edifício Internacional Rio Praia do Flamengo, 154 1o andar, Rio de Janeiro – RJ Brasil | No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2016, PIMCO


Select Your Location


  • The flag of Canada Canada

Europe, Middle East & Africa