Fixed income is a very large sandbox. Outstanding debt securities held at the end of 2013 by U.S. investors totaled $52.5 trillion (for treasurys, agency & GSE securites, mortgages, corporate and foreign bonds and municipal bonds).
That compares with total corporate equities of $34.7 trillion. (Corporate equities include both publicly-held equity securities and private equity interests. We estimate that the market capitalization of U.S. publicly held securities was $22.4 trillion at the end of 2013.)
There is some overlap in the various bond sectors as presented here. For example, most mortgages are financed by Agency and GSE securities. So the total investable universe is smaller than the $52.5 trillion sum of all of the fixed income sectors, as presented in Chart 2. Still, including all sectors, the bond market is bigger than the stock market.
Fixed income investing is still dominated by institutional investors; but individual investors have made inroads over the years. New trading platforms and improved trade reporting platforms have made the corporate, municipal and U.S. Treasury sectors more widely available to a broader base of investors. Since most traditional market makers have reduced their capital commitments to the secondary market, it is likely that more fixed income securities will be traded on exchange-based platforms over time.
Originally published February 28, 2008. Updated May 8, 2014.
Stephen P. Percoco
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