Bonds for the Rest of Us

As investors continue to seek out less risky investments, a growing number of name-brand companies are selling bonds to the general public via Wall Street brokerage houses and on-line discounters. (Previously they were available only to institutional investors.) Companies selling these teensy parcels of debt include Freddie Mac, United Parcel Service, IBM and Dow Chemical. Their biggest draw? They usually offer higher yields than Treasury bonds (between 4% and 7%), and some--like those issued by Boeing Capital--pay interest on a monthly basis. The biggest drawback? They're not backed by the government, and if you don't plan on holding them until maturity,...

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