4.2 Bonds-U. S. Government
U.S. Treasury bonds (long-term), notes (intermediate-term) and bills (short-term), as well as obligations of the various U. S. government agencies, are traded away from the exchanges in a vast professional market where the basic unit of trading is often $ 1 million face value in amount. However, trades are also done in smalleramounts, and you can buy Treasuries in lots of $5,000 or $10,000 through a regular broker. U. S. government bonds are regarded as providing investors with the ultimate in safety.
Bonds issued by state and local governments and governmental units are generally referred to as "municipals" or "tax-exempts", since the income from these bonds is largely exempt from federal income tax.
Tax-exempt bonds are attractive to individuals in higher tax brackets and to certain institutions. There are many different issues and the newspapers generally list only a small number of actively traded municipals. The trading takes place in a vast, specialized over-the-counter market. As an offset to the tax advantage, interest rates on these bonds are generally lower than on U. S. government or corporate bonds. Quality is usually high, but there are variations according to the financial soundness of the various states and communities.
4.4 Convertible Securities
A convertible bond (or convertible debenture) is a corporate bond that can be converted into the company's common stock under certain terms. Convertible preferred stock carries a similar "conversion privilege". These securities are intended to combine the reduced risk of a bond or preferred stock with the advantage of conversion to common stock if the company is successful. The market price of a convertible security generally represents a combination of a pure bond price (or a pure preferred stock price) plus a premium for the conversion privilege. Many convertible issues are listed on the NYSE and other exchanges, and many others are traded over-the-counter
An option is a piece of paper that gives you the right to buy or sell a given security at a specified price for a specified period of time. A "call" is an option to buy, a "put" is an option to sell. In simplest form, these have become an extremely popular way to speculate on the expectation that the price of a stock will go up or down. In recent years a new type of option has become extremely popular: options related to the various stock market averages, which let you speculate on the direction of the whole market rather than on individual stocks. Many trading techniques used by expert investors are built around options; some of these techniques are intended to reduce risks rather than for speculation.
When a corporation wants to sell new securities to raise additional capital, it often gives its stockholders rights to buy the new securities (most often additional shares of stock) at an attractive price. The right is in the nature of an option to buy, with a very short life. The holder can use ("exercise") the right or can sell it to someone else. When rights are issued, they are usually traded (for the short period until they expire) on the same exchange as the stock or other security to which they apply.
A warrant resembles a right in that it is issued by a company and gives the holder the option of buying the stock (or other security) of the company from the company itself for a specified price. But a warrant has a longer life-often several years, sometimes without limit As with rights, warrants are negotiable (meaning that they can be sold by the owner to someone else), and several warrants are traded on the major exchanges.
4.8 Commodities and Financial Futures
The commodity markets, where foodstuffs and industrial commodities are traded in vast quantities, are outside the scope of this text. But because the commodity markets deal in "futures"-that is, contracts for delivery of a certain good at a specified future date- they have also become the center of trading for "financial futures", which, by any logical definition, are not commodities at all.
Financial futures are relatively new, but they have rapidly zoomed in importance and in trading activity. Like options, the futures can be used for protective purposes as well as for speculation. Making the most headlines have been stock index futures, which permit investors to speculate on the future direction of the stock market averages. Two other types of financial futures are also of great importance: interest rate futures, which are based primarily on the prices of U.S. Treasury bonds, notes, and bills, and which fluctuate according to the level of interest rates; and foreign currency futures, which are based on the exchange rates between foreign currencies and the U.S. dollar. Although, futures can be used for protective purposes, they are generally a highly speculative area intended for professionals and other expert investors.
5. STOCK MARKET AVERAGES READING THE NEWSPAPER QUOTATIONS
The financial pages of the newspaper are mystery to many people. But dramatic movements in the stock market often make the front page. In newspaper headlines, TV news summaries, and elsewhere, almost everyone has been exposed to the stock market averages.
In a brokerage firm office, it's common to hear the question "How's the market?" and answer, "Up five dollars", or "Down a dollar". With 1500 common stocks listed on the NYSE, there has to be some easy way to express the price trend of the day. Market averages are a way of summarizing that information.
Despite all competition, the popularity crown still does to an average that has some of the qualities of an antique-the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an average of 30 prominent stocks dating back to the 1890s. This average is named for Charles Dow-one of the earliest stock market theorists, and a founder of Dow Jones & Company, a leading financial news service and publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
In the days before computers, an average of 30 stocks was perhaps as much as anyone could calculate on a practical basis at intervals throughout the day. Now, the Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index (500 leading stocks) and the New York Stock Exchange Composite Index (all stocks on the NYSE) provide a much more accurate picture of the total market. The professionals are likely to focus their attention on these "broad" market indexes. But old habits die slowly, and someone calls out, "How's the market?" and someone else answers, "Up five dollars," or "Up five"-it's