Since the election, much of the financial commentary has centered on the stock market’s surprising surge. But the largest changes by far have been in expectations for interest rates, which, in turn, have affected the bond markets.
The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield jumped 53 basis points, ending the month at 2.37%. This sent bond prices diving.
In addition, a huge supply of new muni bonds were issued in October, as state and local governments rushed to fund projects ahead of what they expected to be a volatile market after the election.
The total of muni bonds issued hit a record $52.5 billion in October, according to Thomson Reuters data. Although the S&P 500 soared 3.02% since the election and 3.7% since the beginning of the month, municipal bond funds, whose interest is generally free from federal taxes, are suffering. In the past year, investors have spent close to $61.4 billion on muni funds, according to Morningstar.
That massive supply caused a glut, pushing bond prices down modestly and yields up to entice buyers. Bond yields move in the opposite direction of prices.
While municipal securities have the added benefit of tax exemptions, if tax rates decrease, as anticipated, the benefit of those exemptions would decrease. In light of that, municipal prices have taken an additional hit.
Funds that invest in long-term bonds with the shakiest credit have been hit hardest. One example, long-term California municipal bonds, are down 6.6%, including reinvested interest, since the July low in interest rates. High-yield munis are down 6.1% the same period.
Some examples of the carnage: Nuveen California High Yield Municipal Bond (NCHRX), an $800 million long-term fund that has lost 9.71% since rates started rising. The institutional fund charges 0.65% in expenses and has an average effective duration of 10.56 years, according to Morningstar.
According to Investment News, VanEck Vectors CEF Municipal Income (XMPT) is the worst muni ETF now and is down 12.63%. The $87.2 million ETF invests in closed-end muni funds and has a 1.52% expense ratio.
One more loser, Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury Index (VEDTX), a $1.1 billion fund, has dropped 21.2% since July 8.
General municipal debt funds dove 4.07% in November, bringing three-month losses to 5.41%. Lower prices may be attractive for some but the future of muni bonds could depend on what happens with the tax reform. If the top tax rate moves from 39% to 33%, investors may not be bothered. However, a 28% cap could make people a little more nervous about munis.
The foregoing information, which is all publicly available, is being provided by The White Law Group. The White Law Group is a national securities fraud, securities arbitration, and investor protection law firm with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Vero Beach, Florida.
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