A conventional bond is a debt instrument consisting of a series of periodic coupon payments plus the repayment of the principal at maturity. As the name suggests, a zero-coupon bond has no coupon payments. It has only a single payment consisting of the repayment of the principal at maturity. The zero-coupon bond is sold at a discount and then redeemed for its face value at maturity. The return to the investor is the difference between the face value of the bond and its discounted purchase price.
In this article, the author examines the investment characteristics of zero-coupon bonds. In particular, a type of zero-coupon bond known as a strip bond is discussed. A strip bond is created by stripping coupon payments from conventional bonds. The strip bond market in Canada has grown substantially since the late 1980s and is now an integral part of Canadian fixed-income markets. As well, the opportunity to trade in the strip bond market improves the liquidity and efficiency of Canadian fixed-income markets, thus helping to reduce the overall cost of borrowing to the government.
The existence of a market for Real Return Bonds in Canada provides a direct tool with which to measure market expectations of inflation by comparing the yields on these bonds with those on conventional Government of Canada long-term bonds. However, there are other factors besides inflation expectations that may affect the yield differential. After reviewing these factors, the authors note that they can lead to a potentially large bias in the level of inflation expectations.
The changes in the differential over time may, nonetheless, be a good indicator of movements in long-run inflation expectations. Based on this measure, expectations of long-run inflation have declined since late 1994.