Bonds: Munis

(New York)

The muni market seems healthy. Other than the cases where budgets are exploding, the market as a whole has characteristically low yields and looks stable, especially because of excess investor demand from the recent tax changes. However, there are structural concerns about the market. Nuveen and Vanguard have come to dominate the market through their funds, sucking up to two-thirds of all the Dollars flowing into the market in the last decade. This is because investors have been increasingly buying muni funds, not individual securities. However, according to UBS, this is a big risk. “When everyone runs for the exit at the same time…no one wants to be the buyer of last resort … The concentration in large municipal asset managers will have ramifications during volatile times in that it will make the swings greater one way or another”.


FINSUM: Everyone has been warning about big runs on fixed income funds in a market downturn, but evidence of such has yet to materialize.

(New York)

The muni bond market is in a difficult place for investors. Demand is far outstripping supply, which means prices are high and yields low, leaving investors few opportunities to find value. However, few does not mean none, so here are some places to find good value municipal bonds. Airport muni bonds can be a good choice, as they tend to fair well in recessions and have very defensible funding sources (e.g. state and local governments). Toll-road bonds are another good choice, as they have very strong credit characteristics (only two have defaulted since 1970). Toll roads in San Francisco, New York, Oklahoma, and Maine are particularly good bets as there are few options for drivers to avoid them.


FINSUM: These seem like well-thought out and defensible choices.

(Dallas)

If you are looking for for a safe place to earn some yield in munis, look to Texas. Specifically, the Texas Permanent School Fund, a heavy weight in the muni market that backs $80 bn of debt. The fund has a triple A rating from multiple agencies and is one of the safest bets in the market. The bonds average a 1.9% yield, which is quite strong for the muni market, especially considering the average triple A only yields 1.7%.


FINSUM: This seems like a very strong credit, and one with a surprisingly good relative yield.

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