• Muni Nation

    What Is An Investor To Do?

    Jim Colby, Portfolio Manager
    June 06, 2012

    If you have not asked yourself this question, then you may either be blissfully unaware of the cacophony raised as investors rush out the exit marked "equity" based on fund flow data from Morningstar, or your expectations might be so low for investment returns that you've turned to watching re-runs of AMC's Mad Men. With everything seemingly in freefall – including yields – I offer my opinion as follows:

    Do nothing at your own peril. To default to cash means paying someone else for the opportunity to hold your money, for nothing. With the Fed signaling that rates are likely to remain low for some time, one needs to choose an investment strategy that provides liquidity, generates an income stream and avoids the clouds of uncertainty through diversification.

    In my view, fund structures such as ETFs may achieve these points. Offered in a wide variety of strategies, investors have the potential to match their tolerance for credit and/or interest rate risk. For example, municipal bond ETFs with duration targets such as short, intermediate or long. Currently municipal bonds offer taxable-equivalent returns greater than those offered in the U.S. Treasury or U.S. corporate bond markets1.

    Despite the offering of Warren Buffett on the topic of diversification when he said, "Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket very carefully," I believe most investors may not have the luxury of Buffett's expertise. Diversification in the municipal world seeks to protect against the unknowable, and a way to perhaps keep those eggs from cracking.

    1Source: Barclays Municipal Credit Research, May 2012.




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    All indices listed are unmanaged indices and do not reflect the payment of transaction costs, advisory fees or expenses that are associated with an investment in a fund. An index’s performance is not illustrative of a fund’s performance. Indices are not securities in which investments can be made.

    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. 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.

    The income generated from some types of municipal bonds may be subject to state and local taxes as well as to federal taxes on capital gains and may also be subject to alternative minimum tax.

    Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss.

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