If you’re curious about the Canada bond market holiday and how to invest and trade it, read on. You may assume that a bond market holiday means “no trading” but you can trade if you think outside the box.
What is the Canada Bond Market Holiday?
Bond market holidays in Canada are weekdays where trading halts to observe the holiday. Since banks rely on the bond market to determine interest rates, they are also closed during bond market holidays. Stock markets, on the other hand, may or may not close, depending on the holiday.
The U.S. and Canada usually share the same holidays for the bond market, with the exception of a few days specific to the respective country. For example, Canada doesn’t close its bond markets during U.S. specific holidays like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.
Some holidays overlap with the U.S. but are called different names, like Family Day, which overlaps with President’s Day in the U.S. Remembrance Day usually overlaps with Veterans Day in the U.S.
Canada also observes holidays specific to its own country, such as Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Canadian Thanksgiving Day and Boxing Day. It’s also important to be aware of U.S. stock market holidays and the closely correlated U.K. stock market holidays.
Normal Hours of Operation
The normal tradable hours of the Canada Bond market consists of three sessions. The pre-market trading session runs from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Regular trading hours run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. After-hours trading times run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
The hours of operation for the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange coincide with U.S. stock market trading hours, from 9:30 a.m. EST to 4:30 p.m. EST.
What Are the Holiday Hours of the Canada Bond Market?
The Canada bond market is closed during holidays. However, its bond market also tends to have partial closures where the market closes early at 1 p.m. EST ahead of specific holidays. These include the Friday before Family Day, the day before Good Friday, the Friday before Victoria Day, the day before Canada Day, the Friday before Civic Holiday, the Friday before Labor Day, the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving Day, the day before Remembrance Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
How to Trade Bonds Over the Canada Bond Market Holiday
Bond markets are much bigger than stock markets. They are the largest and most liquid markets in the world. Bonds are a form of debt issued by governments and corporations in exchange for yields or interest rates. The riskier the issuer, the higher the yield. Government bonds, also known as sovereign bonds, tend to be less risky than corporate bonds, depending on the financial status of the underlying country.
There are also exceptions, such as during the 2011 sovereign wealth crisis, where Greek government bonds were promising high double-digit yields, which they ultimately defaulted on. The rule to remember is that if it's too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Investing implies buying a bond and holding onto it for a longer term, which can last years. Most people invest in bonds as a conservative investment to collect a consistent income stream from the yield or interest payments. This is why bonds are classified as fixed-income instruments.
The riskier the issuer of the bond, as in risk of defaulting on the interest and/or the principal payment, the higher the yield. Government bonds typically have the least risk of default because governments collect taxes from its citizens.
This was a problem with Greek bonds since people had a penchant for not paying taxes while enjoying subsidies like pensions. The most liquid and low-risk government bonds are the U.S. Treasury bonds, also known as T-bonds or Treasuries. Canadian government bonds are also stable, but liquidity may be thinner at times. Corporate bonds that have more potential risk of default will compensate for the risk with higher yields. Ratings agencies like Standard and Poor’s (S&P) provide a rating system.
Investment-grade bonds have AAA to BBB ratings. Riskier bonds below a BBB rating are labeled “junk bonds” due to their higher potential of default, but these bonds also provide double-digit interest payments in exchange for taking on the risk.
Traders want to make profits with short-term holds that can last minutes to days. They seek opportunity in volatility and tend to prefer trading riskier assets. Trading itself is a risky proposition and not for everybody. Traders often prefer trading riskier bonds to capture incremental profits due to volatility rather than hold them long-term to collect on the interest payments like they would with stable low-risk government bonds.
Investors holding stable government bonds will most likely not be concerned too much with bond market holidays since the markets pause and wouldn't impact their investment. However, let’s take a look at some alternative options if you can’t invest over a bond market holiday.
Option 1: Trade the U.S. bond market on Canadian bond market holidays.
While the Canada bond market holidays tend to follow the U.S. bond market holidays, there are many instances where the U.S. bond market is open because Canada observes a holiday unique to itself.
For example, Victoria Day is a holiday unique to Canada, usually observed during the third week of May, while the U.S. Memorial Day is observed during the last week of May. Traders can trade the U.S. bond market when the Canadian bond market closes for Victoria Day.
Option 2: Trade bond ETFs on the stock exchanges.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) invest in a portfolio of bonds, giving you exposure to hundreds of bonds in one instrument at once. They also pay interest on a more frequent basis than the typical semi-annual and annual schedule. They hold a diversified selection of risk and maturities.
During days when the stock market is open while the bond market is closed, traders can opt to trade Canadian bond ETFs. These ETFs trade like stocks on the Toronto Stock Exchange and some also trade on U.S. stock market exchanges.
Option 3: Trade countertrends with stocks.
During bond market holidays, trading in bonds stops. Traders can play a counter-trend strategy during these days. This method requires that the stock exchange opens during the bond market holiday. Due to rising interest rates, stocks have become hypersensitive to bond yields. Stocks tend to move inversely with government bond yields. When bond yields surge higher, stocks tend to sell off lower.
During periods of uptrending bond yields, stock prices tend to trend lower. Bond market holidays are not only a pause in bond trading but also provide a reprieve from the immediate trend. Traders may use the bond market holidays during periods of rising yields to consider playing a bounce in stock prices. During downtrending periods for bond yields, traders may opt to capitalize on falling prices for stocks during the holiday. This will require stock trading experience with a working methodology. This is much riskier than investing in a government bond, so consider the risks if you attempt to play a countertrend pullback during a Canada bond market holiday.
Divergence Can Offer Opportunity
While most investors wouldn’t consider trading during a Canada bond market holiday, it is possible with a little thinking outside of the box. These opportunities present themselves due to the inconsistencies between the U.S. and bond market holidays Canada and the periodic divergences between the bond market and stock market holidays.
Keep in mind that trading itself is risky and it gets riskier trading instruments like ETFs pegged to a market halted for the day. Understand the risk is higher when trading bond-related instruments when the bond market closes for a holiday.