Equity Markets vs Debt Markets

Equity market offers ownership in companies (stocks), while debt market provides loans (bonds). Equity yields dividends/capital gains whereas debt pays interest.
Equity Markets vs Debt Markets
3 min

Debt and equity markets fulfil distinct purposes. Debt market instruments, such as bonds, represent loans, whereas equity market instruments, like stocks, denote ownership in a company. In terms of returns, debt instruments offer interest payments, while equities yield dividends or capital gains.

There are two primary avenues in the investment market: the debt market and the equity market. Debt and equity represent two distinct poles within the vast spectrum of investment options. While equity markets revolve around a company's owned capital, debts entail capital borrowed by the company. The difference between debt and equity extends across various facets including characteristics, risk profiles, returns, structural frameworks, and underlying motives. It's crucial to acknowledge that there's no universal investment solution applicable to all situations. The choice between debt vs equity financing can significantly impact a company's financial structure and risk profile.

Let's explore the concepts of debt and equity separately to grasp why, despite their stark differences, they hold equal significance and occasionally intertwine.

Difference between equity market and debt market

Below table discusses the difference between debt and equity markets -

S. No.


Equity Market

Debt Market



Equity represents ownership in a company.

Debt, on the other hand, entails borrowing capital.



Companies registered with SEBI issue equity.

Debt is typically issued by governments and corporations.



Equity markets pose high risk due to market fluctuations.

Debt markets are relatively low-risk, especially with government-backed securities, though corporate bonds carry some risk.



Returns in the equity market tend to be volatile.

Debt market returns are generally more stable.


Investor status

Equity investors are shareholders, essentially owning a portion of the company.

Debt investors are creditors, lending capital to either companies or governments.


Nature of return

Equity returns come from dividends or capital gains through trading.

Debt returns are in the form of interest paid by the bond issuer.



SEBI regulates the equity market.

The RBI and SEBI oversee the debt market, particularly in the case of corporate bonds.


How do equity markets work?

Equity refers to the trading of shares or stocks of companies listed on stock exchanges. When you own a stock in a company, it means you own a piece of that company. As a shareholder, you become a part owner of the company. The person or entity holding 50% or more shares becomes the majority owner of the company.

Risk and reward

Investing in equity markets carries more risk compared to debt markets. Shares listed on stock exchanges are traded daily during market hours. The investments in debt mutual funds offer stable returns on investments, but it is important to note that the returns are not guaranteed even with debt mutual funds. They can come in the form of dividends or by selling your investment at a higher price in the market, allowing you to make a profit. The value of shares can fluctuate greatly due to various factors, leading to volatility in the market.

Returns on equity investments are also volatile. However, under favourable market conditions returns on investment in equity mutual fund may result in higher returns.

Research requirements

Investing in the stock market demands a significant level of research and understanding. Investors need to be well-informed and conduct thorough research before making investment decisions. This involves analysing financial statements, balance sheets, management practices, and the overall financial health of the company. Being knowledgeable about these factors along with debt and equity differences can help investors make informed investment choices in the equity market.

Who can invest in equity markets?

Here's a detailed breakdown to grasp the essential qualities required for investing in equity markets:

  • Higher risk profile: Investing in stock markets entails a higher level of risk compared to other investment avenues. Stock prices can be highly volatile, influenced by various factors such as market sentiment, economic conditions, and company performance. As an investor, you must be willing to accept this inherent risk and be prepared for potential fluctuations in the value of your investments.
  • Sufficient funding to cushion against volatility: Stock market investments may require a significant amount of capital to withstand market volatility effectively. Having ample funds at your disposal can help cushion against potential losses during market downturns, allowing you to stay invested and ride out temporary fluctuations in stock prices.
  • Perseverance to withstand market volatility and stay invested: The stock market is characterised by periods of volatility, where prices can experience sharp fluctuations over short periods. It's essential to have the perseverance to withstand these fluctuations and maintain a long-term investment perspective. Avoiding knee-jerk reactions to market movements and staying invested during turbulent times can be key to achieving long-term investment success.
  • Time to research and study companies: Successful stock market investing requires thorough research and analysis of individual companies. This involves studying financial statements, assessing business fundamentals, evaluating competitive advantages, and understanding industry trends. Allocating sufficient time to conduct comprehensive research can help you make informed investment decisions and identify potentially lucrative investment opportunities.
  • Patience for returns to rise and become stable: While stock market investments have the potential to deliver attractive returns, they can also be subject to significant volatility in the short term. It's essential to exercise patience and maintain a long-term investment horizon, allowing your investments to grow and mature over time. While returns in the stock market can be lucrative, they may take time to materialise and stabilise. Maintaining patience and discipline during periods of market volatility can ultimately lead to more consistent and sustainable investment returns.

How do debt markets work?

Debt, as opposed to equity, represents capital that is borrowed rather than owned. For governments, both central and state, acquiring funds involves issuing government securities or bonds to the market. Essentially, when you invest in these bonds, you are lending money to the government, which in turn promises to pay you interest at regular intervals and return the principal amount upon maturity. Similarly, companies raise capital by offering debt market securities such as corporate bonds to investors. The debt market comprises bonds issued by both governmental entities and corporations.

  • Risk and returns - Government bonds typically offer guaranteed returns with a fixed rate of interest set by the government. On the other hand, while corporate bonds operate similarly, there is a possibility of the issuing company defaulting, which can jeopardise the investment. Consequently, government bonds are often perceived as risk-free, resulting in more moderate returns. This discrepancy in risk between government and corporate bonds underscores a fundamental difference between the debt and equity markets.
  • Research requirements - Bonds generally necessitate less intensive investigation, particularly if you're not frequently trading them as you might with stocks. Factors influencing the interest rate on bonds are typically fewer, especially considering that the government guarantees the interest rate. While some basic research may be necessary for corporate bonds to evaluate the financial health of the issuing company, the level of scrutiny required is generally less demanding compared to equity investments.

Who can invest in debt markets?

Investing in debt markets can be a suitable option for certain investors based on their risk tolerance, time availability for research, and preference for a hands-off investment approach. You should invest in the debt markets by looking at the following factors

1.Risk-averse investors

Debt markets may appeal to investors who prioritise capital preservation and are unwilling to take on significant investment risk.

2.Potentially stable returns

Individuals seeking assurance of fixed returns may find government bonds or similar debt instruments appealing due to the certainty of interest payments.

3. Limited research time

If you have constraints on the amount of time you can dedicate to investment research, debt markets might be preferable as they typically require less frequent monitoring and analysis compared to equity markets.

4. Passive investment strategy

For those who prefer to invest their money and allow it to grow steadily without actively managing their investments, debt markets offer opportunities to park funds with minimal ongoing involvement.

How are the investors prioritised in the debt and equity market?

In investment, the dynamics between debt and equity markets reveal distinct hierarchies, underscoring the uneven playing field for investors. In times of company distress, the debt market prioritises bondholders over shareholders, particularly in default and liquidation scenarios. Creditors, mainly bondholders, receive priority in settlements if a company faces insolvency, with shareholders only compensated after creditors are satisfied. This hierarchy primarily concerns corporate bonds, as government bond defaults are rare.

How can you invest in Equity and Debt markets?

When considering your approach to both the debt market and the equity market, there are similarities yet nuances that distinguish how you can navigate each. Let's delve into the methods of accessing both debt and equity markets:

Equity markets:

In the equity market, you have two primary avenues for investment:

Direct investment:

  • This involves purchasing stocks individually from stock exchanges.
  • Requires thorough research into individual companies to make informed investment decisions.
  • Investors must analyse various factors such as industry trends, company performance, and growth potential.

Mutual funds:

  • Mutual funds are pooled investment vehicles where money is collected from multiple investors.
  • Funds are managed by a professional fund manager who makes investment decisions on behalf of investors.
  • Investors pay a fee for the expertise of the fund manager, along with other associated charges.

Debt markets:

Investing in the debt market also offers two primary avenues:

Direct investment:

  • In the case of corporate bonds, investors can directly invest through private placements with the issuing company.
  • Government bonds are typically acquired through auctions organised by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Participation in auctions can be through competitive or non-competitive bidding.
    • Competitive bidding is complex and favoured by larger investors like mutual fund companies and banks.
    • Non-competitive bidding is simpler and suitable for individual investors, facilitated through platforms like NSE goBid.

Mutual funds:

  • Mutual funds offer an indirect route to investing in debt markets.
  • Fund managers make investment decisions on behalf of investors, selecting government securities based on market conditions and fund objectives.
  • Debt or hybrid mutual funds provide exposure to debt markets alongside equity, offering diversification and professional management.

While both debt and equity markets offer direct and mutual fund investment options, the specifics of accessing each may vary. Moreover, investors can benefit from utilising tools such as lumpsum calculators and SIP calculators to plan their investments effectively, whether they choose to invest directly or through mutual funds. Whether you opt for direct investment or mutual funds depends on factors such as your risk tolerance, investment expertise, and desired level of involvement in decision-making.

Final words

Understanding the difference between debt and equity is straightforward. Companies must carefully consider whether to raise capital through debt vs equity financing to meet their financial objectives. Equity markets typically entail higher risk but offer the potential for greater returns, while the bond market operates with a more nuanced risk-return dynamic. When comparing mutual funds, it's essential to consider factors such as historical performance, expense ratios, fund objectives, and the fund manager's track record to make informed investment decisions. Bajaj Finserv Mutual Fund Platform provides a comprehensive solution. With connections to over 1000 mutual funds listed on the Bajaj Finserv Platform, investors have access to a diverse range of investment opportunities.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between debt and equity types of securities?

Debt securities, like bonds, represent loans to issuers and offer fixed interest payments and repayment of principal at maturity, typically posing lower risk but yielding lower returns. In contrast, equity securities, such as stocks, signify ownership in a company, entailing higher risk but potentially higher returns through dividends and capital appreciation.

What is an example of debt and equity?

An example of debt securities is a corporate bond, where investors lend money to a company in exchange for periodic interest payments and repayment of the principal at maturity. In contrast, an example of equity securities is common stock, where investors purchase shares representing ownership in a company, entitling them to dividends and voting rights.

Which is cheaper debt or equity?

In general, debt is often cheaper than equity. This is because debt typically involves fixed interest payments that are agreed upon in advance, whereas equity may involve variable returns based on the company's performance. Additionally, debt holders have priority over equity holders in the event of bankruptcy, which reduces the risk for lenders and allows them to demand lower returns compared to equity investors who bear more risk. However, the actual cost of debt or equity can vary depending on factors such as interest rates, market conditions, and the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Why is debt worse than equity?

Debt carries obligations for fixed payments of principal and interest, potentially increasing financial risk and restricting flexibility due to imposed covenants. Unlike equity, debt must be repaid regardless of the company's performance, and high levels of debt can lead to significant interest costs, reducing profitability. While debt can provide leverage and lower costs in favourable conditions, its inherent risks make it less flexible and potentially more burdensome compared to equity financing.

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Bajaj Finance Limited (“BFL”) is an NBFC offering loans, deposits and third-party wealth management products.

The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any financial advice. The content herein has been prepared by BFL on the basis of publicly available information, internal sources and other third-party sources believed to be reliable. However, BFL cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information, assure its completeness, or warrant such information will not be changed. 

This information should not be relied upon as the sole basis for any investment decisions. Hence, User is advised to independently exercise diligence by verifying complete information, including by consulting independent financial experts, if any, and the investor shall be the sole owner of the decision taken, if any, about suitability of the same.