Bond Market vs Stock Market: Key Differences

The following chart shows the growth of $1 invested in the stocks listed in the S&P 500 Index (stocks) versus $1 invested in the bonds listed in the Bloomberg Capital US Aggregate™ Bond Index (bonds). While historical performance cannot guarantee future performance, an investment in stocks during this period would have significantly outperformed a bond investment. U.S. government and U.S. government agency bonds are considered the safest bond investments. They are not insured but are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government with respect to both principal and interest. Every bond carries the risk that a promised payment will not be made in full or on time. As uncertainty of repayment rises, investors demand higher levels of return in exchange for assuming greater risk.

Bonds are investments in debt while stocks are a way to purchase part of a company. Stocks and bonds also offer different risk levels and returns on investment. Bonds issued by the U.S. federal government and bonds labeled investment-grade are generally stable investments. They pay steady interest over time (also called coupon payments), and the entities are unlikely to go away before the maturity date, or date when the debt plus interest must be paid. The other key difference between the stock and bond market is the risk involved in investing in each. The bond market is where investors go to trade (buy and sell) debt securities, prominently bonds, which may be issued by corporations or governments.

While stocks are ownership in a company, bonds are a loan to a company or government. Because they are a loan, with a set interest payment, a maturity date, and a face value that the borrower will repay, they tend to be far less volatile than stocks. That’s not to say they’re risk-free; if the borrower has financial trouble and is at risk of defaulting on their debt, bonds can lose value.


But even in a worst-case scenario of bankruptcy liquidation, bond holders are ahead of other debtors and shareholders to get repaid. Stocks can also be great ways to generate income, typically via dividends, or cash paid by a company directly to shareholders. Not all stocks pay dividends, but more mature, stable companies that generate more cash than they need to fund improvements and growth will usually return what’s left in dividends. Although stocks have greater potential for growth than bonds, they also have much higher levels of risk.

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stock and bonds definition

These varying levels of risks and returns help investors choose how much of each to invest in — otherwise known as building an investment portfolio. According to Brett Koeppel, a certified financial planner in Buffalo, New York, stocks and bonds have distinct roles that may produce the best results when they’re used as a complement to each other. What do we know about stocks and bonds as financial tools? Bonds are more stable in the short term, but they tend to underperform stocks over the long term. That’s particularly true if you’re regularly contributing new money and making investments. However, most investors own bonds through bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or bond mutual funds.

Inverse performance

Or that the company you invest in will go bankrupt in a year and you’ll walk away with nothing. New securities are put up for sale on the primary market, and any subsequent trading takes place on the secondary market, where investors buy and sell securities they already own. These fixed-income securities range from bonds to bills to notes. By providing these securities on the bond market, issuers can get the funding they need for projects or other expenses needed. NerdWallet, Inc. is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. Its articles, interactive tools and other content are provided to you for free, as self-help tools and for informational purposes only.

  • It is true that a bond can sell at a premium prior to maturity, but the potential for appreciation here is nowhere near as great as it is for stocks.
  • Depending on the financial strength and creditworthiness of the issuer, bonds can be very safe or more risky, and investors are paid a premium in higher yield based on that risk.
  • On the other hand, higher interest rates could mean newly issued bonds have a higher yield than yours, lowering demand for your bond, and in turn, its value.
  • And so far, both stocks and bonds are down more than 10%.
  • According to data compiled by Vanguard, a 60/40 portfolio — 60% stocks and 40% bonds — generated an average of 8.8% compounded annual returns between 1926 and 2019.

It’s closer to a bond, with a redemption price, a set dividend, and usually a redemption date (meaning the company will repay investors the redemption value plus dividends owed). Preferred shares tend to hold up their value, but they have very limited upside. The upside is usually a higher dividend yield than common stock in the same company with less volatility and a smaller risk of losses. If you buy a bond and hold onto it until its maturity date, you won’t have a gain or a loss; you just get the principal back. But if you sell the bond on the secondary market for more than you paid for it, you’ll have to pay capital gains taxes. Bonds, on the other hand, are more susceptible to risks such as inflation and interest rates.


The bond market is also known as the debt or the credit market. Securities sold on the bond market are all various forms of debt. By buying a bond, credit, or debt security, you are lending money for a set period and charging interest—the same way a bank does to its debtors.

stock and bonds definition

There are also variations on the stock and bond concept that share features of both. The use of conversion features and the manner in which stocks and bonds are traded are noted below. Bonds aren’t completely risk-free; there is the possibility of the issuer defaulting on its bonds or inflation reducing the value of the bond. While stocks are equities, bonds are known as debt securities. The following link may contain information concerning investments other than those offered by Russell Investments, its affiliates or subsidiaries. Neither Russell Investments nor its affiliates are responsible for investment decisions made with respect to such investments or for the accuracy or completeness of information about such investments.

That is, there is no upper limit to how valuable they can become. A mortgage bond is a type of security backed by pooled mortgages, paying interest to the holder monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. However, there are a couple of bond taxation loopholes investors should be aware of. Read about the different types of bonds, and how to buy them. While both instruments seek to grow your money, the way they do it and the returns they offer are very different.

The Stock Market

Some bond agreements allow their issuers to delay or cancel interest payments, but this is not a common feature. A delayed payment or cancellation feature reduces the amount that investors will be willing to pay for a bond. Although both stocks and bonds are popular investment options, there are several key differences to be aware of before investing your money. With bonds, the company or organization issuing the bond acts as a borrower and raises money from investors to fund projects or expansion efforts. In exchange, the issuer promises to pay you a rate of interest on top of the bond’s principal. By buying stocks, you can potentially grow your money through capital appreciation, meaning the stock’s price increases.

stock and bonds definition

All investments carry some level of risk including the potential loss of principal invested. With fixed income securities, such as bonds, interest rates and bond prices tend to move in opposite directions. When interest rates fall, bond prices typically rise and conversely when interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss.

Likewise, the interest rate — known as yield — will vary depending on the type and duration of the bond. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Stocks are securities that represents a fraction of the ownership of the issuing corporation. They are issued to investors in the form of stock certificates.

When you buy stock, you’re actually purchasing a tiny slice of the company — one or more “shares.” And the more shares you buy, the more of the company you own. Let’s say a company has a stock price of $50 per share, and you invest $2,500 (that’s 50 shares for $50 each). Both stocks and bonds may be traded on a public exchange. This is a common occurrence for larger publicly-held companies, and much more rare for smaller entities that do not want to go through the inordinate expense of going public. As a rule of thumb, the further you are from a financial goal, the more stocks and the fewer bonds you should own. But as you move closer to that goal, such as retirement, paying for a child’s education, etc., you should move more of your assets into bonds.

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