What is Interest Rate Risk? Interest rate risk is the risk that changes in interest rates will affect the value of fixed-income investments. When interest ra

Interest Risk

Fixed Income


Interest Rate Risk vs Credit Risk: Understanding Fixed-Income Investment Risks


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What is Interest Rate Risk?

Interest rate risk is the risk that changes in interest rates will affect the value of fixed-income investments. When interest rates rise, the prices of existing bonds typically fall, and vice versa. This inverse relationship can impact both the market value of the bonds you hold and the yield you receive.

Key Points:

  • Duration: Longer-duration bonds are more sensitive to interest rate changes. Duration measures the bond's price sensitivity to interest rate changes.
  • Market Value: When interest rates rise, new bonds are issued with higher yields, making existing bonds with lower yields less attractive. This leads to a decrease in their market value.
  • Income Stream: While the coupon payments remain fixed, the overall return may fluctuate based on market conditions.

Managing Interest Rate Risk:

  • Diversification: Invest in bonds with varying maturities to mitigate the impact of interest rate changes.
  • Laddering: Create a bond ladder with bonds maturing at regular intervals to spread out interest rate risk.
  • Shorter Duration: Focus on shorter-duration bonds, which are less sensitive to interest rate changes.

What is Credit Risk?

Credit risk, also known as default risk, is the risk that a bond issuer will fail to make interest or principal payments on time. This risk is directly related to the issuer's creditworthiness.

Key Points:

  • Credit Ratings: Bonds are rated by credit rating agencies (e.g., Moody's, S&P, Fitch) based on the issuer's financial health. Higher-rated bonds (investment-grade) have lower credit risk, while lower-rated bonds (junk bonds) have higher credit risk.
  • Default Probability: The likelihood that the issuer will default on their payment obligations. Higher credit risk translates to a higher probability of default.
  • Yield Spread: Bonds with higher credit risk typically offer higher yields to compensate investors for taking on additional risk.

Managing Credit Risk:

  • Diversification: Invest in bonds from different issuers and sectors to reduce the impact of any single default.
  • Credit Analysis: Perform thorough credit analysis and monitor the issuer's financial health.
  • Investment Grade: Focus on investment-grade bonds with higher credit ratings to minimize default risk.

Differences Between Interest Rate Risk and Credit Risk

  1. Nature of Risk:

    • Interest Rate Risk: Related to changes in market interest rates.
    • Credit Risk: Related to the issuer's ability to make payments.
  2. Impact on Investments:

    • Interest Rate Risk: Affects the market value of bonds and overall portfolio value.
    • Credit Risk: Affects the probability of receiving timely interest and principal payments.
  3. Mitigation Strategies:

    • Interest Rate Risk: Managed through diversification, bond laddering, and focusing on shorter durations.
    • Credit Risk: Managed through diversification, credit analysis, and focusing on higher-rated bonds.


Both interest rate risk and credit risk are critical considerations for fixed-income investors. By understanding these risks and employing appropriate strategies to manage them, you can make more informed investment decisions and build a resilient portfolio.

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