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Basis point in finance and why is it important


If you’ve tried trading before, you would surely have heard of a basis point. But what is a basis point in finance?

A basis point (BP) measures changes in the interest rate of a financial instrument

We’ll explain more in this article.


What is a basis point in finance?

Basis points are units of measurement commonly used in finance to express small percentage changes.

One basis point is equal to one-hundredth of a percentage point or 0.01%. For example, a change from 5% to 5.25% represents an increase of 25 basis points.

Also known as bps or bips, a basis point is used to describe the percentage change in the value of financial instruments or the rate change of an index.

Basis points are less ambiguous than percentages as they represent an absolute, set figure instead of a ratio.

Although it is a seemingly small unit of measurement, basis points have a significant impact on financial decisions, investments, trading, and market movements.

In this article, we will explain what is a basis point in finance, how basis points are used, and why they are essential for both professionals and traders.


Why do we use basis points?

In the bond market, a basis point is used to measure the yield that a bond pays to the investor. Basis points are also used when referring to the cost of mutual funds and exchange traded funds.

For instance, when a company's stock price rises from $50 to $51, it's a 2% increase. But using basis points, it's an increase of 100 basis points (since 1% is 100 basis points).

This precision matters in finance, especially when interest rates, bond yields, or fund expenses are being discussed, where even slight shifts can have a significant impact.


Why are basis points important?

Precision in measurement: In finance, accuracy is paramount. Basis points provide a way to express even the smallest changes in interest rates, yields, and spreads with precision.

Comparative analysis: Different financial instruments often have varying yield differences that are best understood when expressed in basis points. This facilitates straightforward comparative analysis.

Standardised communication: Basis points offer a standardised way to communicate any changes, making it easier for professionals across different sectors of finance to understand and discuss market movements.


How basis points are used

Now that you know what is a basis point in finance, let’s look at how basis points are utilised in the following financial scenarios.

Interest rates: Central banks use basis points to adjust interest rates. For example, a rate cut or hike of 25 basis points can have substantial effects on borrowing costs, economic growth, and investment decisions.

Bonds and yields: Basis points are employed to quantify the yield spread between different bonds, allowing traders to evaluate the risk and return associated with each bond.

Stock market movements: In stock markets, basis points indicate incremental changes in stock indices. This enables traders and analysts to interpret market trends.

Currency exchange rates: Fluctuations in exchange rates are often measured in basis points, helping global businesses to understand currency movements.

Mortgage rates: Changes in mortgage rates, which are critical for the real estate market, are communicated in basis points, influencing home-buying decisions.

Options and derivatives: Basis points are used to calculate the value of options and derivatives, so traders can make informed decisions about risk exposure.


Basis points vs percentage points

It's essential to differentiate between basis points and percentage points.

While both represent changes in percentages, they have different scales. A one percentage point change is equal to 100 basis points.

Making this distinction is vital to prevent confusion when discussing changes in interest rates or other financial metrics.


Calculating basis points

It’s rather easy to calculate basis points. To calculate the basis points between two percentages, subtract the smaller percentage from the larger one and multiply the result by 100. The formula is as follows: Basis points = (Larger percentage - Smaller percentage) x 100

Let's consider an example. If a company's profit margin increases from 15.50% to 17.75%, the basis point change can be calculated as: Basis points = (17.75 - 15.50) x 100 = 225 basis points.


A basis point in a nutshell

Basis points provide a universal way for expressing minute percentage changes that could have profound implications.

From interest rate adjustments to stock market movements, these small increments play a significant role in shaping financial decisions and strategies.

As a trader, understanding basis points can give you a competitive edge by allowing you to comprehend market shifts more effectively. For financial professionals, mastering basis points is essential for accurate communication and analysis.

In essence, basis points show how finance comes down to the smallest details, where even the tiniest fractions can make all the difference.

So the next time you come across the term basis points, remember that behind those unassuming numbers lies a world of financial significance.

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Dive into the world of basis points and see how the term is relevant in finance. Read the blog posts on’s Education Centre to take the first step towards becoming a confident trader – then start trading.

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