Colby is Portfolio Manager/Municipal Bond ETFs with more than 30 years of fixed income experience.
The $3.7 trillion municipal bond market resides largely in the domain of individual investors, whether through direct purchases or financial intermediaries. Monday was tax day — a day when investors can truly realize the benefits of municipal investments. Although returns have been subdued so far this year (0.93% for the Barclays Municipal Bond Index and 2.56% for the Barclays Municipal High Yield Bond Index1), those who invested in munis in 2012 were rewarded with strong performance (6.78% and 18.14% for the investment-grade and high-yield indexes, respectively). I believe the increase in the top income tax rate to 39.6% has created an additional benefit for income seekers who continue to commit to municipals. For those considering new allocations, however, there are some uncertainties, especially in the context of the latest budget proposal by the administration.
What you should know:
So while Congress debates, in my opinion, opportunity could present itself in the near term.
Munis Attractive at Ratios ≥ 100% of U.S. Treasuries2
Ratio of U.S. Treasuries to AAA munis. Source: Bloomberg as of 4/15/13.
1Returns as of 4/15/13. The Barclays Municipal Bond Index is considered representative of the broad market for investment-grade, tax-exempt bonds with a maturity of at least one year. The Barclays Municipal High Yield Bond Index is considered representative of the broad market for below investment-grade, tax-exempt bonds with a maturity of at least one year.
2The municipal to Treasury ratio is a comparison of the current yield of municipal bonds to U.S. Treasuries indicating whether municipal bonds offer attractive yields compared to Treasury yields. If the ratio is below 100%, municipal bonds are yielding less than Treasuries; if the ratio is above 100%, municipal bonds are yielding more than Treasuries.
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Municipal bonds are subject to risks related to litigation, legislation, political change, conditions in underlying sectors or in local business communities and economies, bankruptcy or other changes in the issuer’s financial condition, and/or the discontinuance of taxes supporting the project or assets or the inability to collect revenues for the project or from the assets. Bonds and bond funds will decrease in value as interest rates rise. Additional risks include credit, interest rate, call, reinvestment, tax, market and lease obligation risk. High-yield municipal bonds are subject to greater risk of loss of income and principal than higher-rated securities, and are likely to be more sensitive to adverse economic changes or individual municipal developments than those of higher-rated securities. Municipal bonds may be less liquid than taxable bonds.
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