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September 18, 2018 Municipal Bond Yields Hit Four-Year High as Cash Leaves Market - Bloomberg
July 30, 2018 As demand remains very healthy, municipal bonds finish mixed - The Bond Buyer
July 25, 2018 Municipal Bond Funds Draw Flood of Cash as Market Extends Gains - Bloomberg
June 1, 2018 Municipal Bonds Gain the Most in a Year With Month's End Surge - Bloomberg
April 26, 2018 Municipal bonds stabilize as San Antonio, N.C. Turnpike deals sell - The Bond Buyer
April 20, 2018 Muni issuance blooms to $7.8B, led by Delta's $1.4B for LGA - The Bond Buyer
February 9, 2018 Muni-Bond Funds See Head-Scratching Inflows Despite Losses - Bloomberg
February 2, 2018 Looking for positive signs in a dark and murky market - The Bond Buyer
January 31, 2018 What the muni bond market is saying about Trump's infrastructure plan - The Bond Buyer
January 8, 2018 Lower and slower looks like new normal for muni market - The Bond Buyer
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Municipal Bond Yields Hit Four-Year High as Cash Leaves Market

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
By Danielle Moran

(Bloomberg) -- A two-week slide in the price of state and local government securities has pushed yields to a more than four-year high as investors pull money from municipal bond funds and the flood of debt payments that boosted demand over the summer recedes.

The yield on 10-year benchmark bonds jumped to more than 2.6 percent Tuesday, the highest since February 2014. The securities have slid along with Treasuries after a slew of strong economic data reinforced speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates twice more this year.

"I would suggest that the Treasury market is leading the muni market at this point, slowly grinding higher as the Treasury market makes it difficult for the muni market to stabilize," said Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer of Miller Tabak Asset Management, which manages $1.1 billion of municipal debt in New York.

Mikhail Foux, head of municipal strategy at Barclays Plc, said that while the Treasury movement is probably the biggest driver of municipal yields right now, the anticipated uptick in new bond sales through the end of the year is figuring in as well. The supply-demand mismatch that led to positive returns during the summer months is waning as the new debt issues are expected outpace the amount of money investors receive from interest payments and bonds that are being paid off.

"A main reason for muni underperformance is that technicals are not as strong as they were," Foux said.

Buyers of state and local bonds are showing signs of caution, Foux said, with investors pulling money out of municipal mutual funds for the last two weeks. Such outflows typically occur when rising interest rates threaten the value of outstanding bonds, he said.

"It seems like a lot of investors are a little cautious right now and they don't want to put money to work even if they have money," Foux said.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Danielle Moran in New York City at dmoran21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
James Crombie at jcrombie8@bloomberg.net, Michael B. Marois, William Selway

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As demand remains very healthy, municipal bonds finish mixed

Monday, July 30, 2018
By Christine Albano and Chip Barnett

Municipal bonds ended mixed on Monday ahead of this week's $4.4 billion of planned bond issuance.

Even though demand generally remains healthy, there wasn't much to get municipal investors interested in the market as July begins winding down, according to municipal market participants.

"Activity in municipals seems relatively muted although there [are] some bid wanted lists, and that is generating some attention from dealers because of their size," Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer at Miller Tabak Asset Management said on Monday.

In addition, he observed that the short end of the market is seeing excessive demand relative to the value offered. "There remains a host of investors who sense long rates might be due for a spike," Pietronico said.

Consequently, he said that slope of the curve is a challenging place to be. "Once again the short end of the market remains the most difficult area of the curve to find value," he said.

Meanwhile, despite recent softness, the supply-demand imbalance is lifting the market, while credit quality continues to improve, according to Stephen Winterstein, managing director of municipal credit research at Wilmington Trust.

"The municipal bond market was softer last week in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries," he said in a report released Monday. "While this was the first down week in seven, demand appears to be solid and lagging supply continues to serve as a support mechanism."

While Wilmington Trust remains concerned by unfunded pension liabilities and other post-employment benefits [OPEB], it views improving credit quality as a boost for the market.

"We believe credit quality is largely healthy," Winterstein said, noting that Moody's Investors Service upgraded the District of Columbia's general obligation debt to Aaa, from Aa1 earlier this month, while S&P Global Ratings last week upgraded the state of Michigan to AA, from AA-minus and the state of Minnesota to AAA, from AA-plus, both with stable outlooks.

Muni performance over the last 10 years

Bank of America Merrill Lynch looked at total returns of the ICE-BAML U.S. Municipal Securities Index over the past decade.

Over the last 10 years, munis had average monthly total returns of 3.65% compared to Treasury and corporate average returns of 2.58% and 4.21%, respectively.

"Though past performance does not guarantee future performance, we do see munis had decent total returns with tax-exempt income. The worst yearly total return was in 2008, with a negative 3.953%, while the best followed right after in 2009 with 14.454%," Sophie Yan, BAML muni research strategist, wrote in Monday's report. "We also show the rolling 12-month total returns of munis, comparing it to Treasuries and corporates. The volatility and divergence between these asset classes were very high between 2008 and 2010, becoming more stable and consistent in recent years."

For 2018, the muni index has returned negative 0.031% through July 26, outperforming both the Treasury and agency master index and the corporate index, which had total returns of negative 1.633% and negative 2.677%, respectively.

The best performance in munis for the year-to-date has been in the one- and three-year maturities and in the BBB-rated sector, Yan said.

Secondary market

Municipal bonds were mixed on Monday, according to a late read of the MBIS benchmark scale. Benchmark muni yields fell less than one basis point in the one-year, three-year and 29- to 30-year maturities, rose less than a basis point in the eight- to 13-year and 15- to 27-year maturities and remained unchanged in the two-year, four-year- to seven-year, 14-year and 28-year maturities.

High-grade munis were also mixed, with yields calculated on MBIS' AAA scale falling less than one basis point in the one- to eight-year and 30-year maturities, rising less than a basis point in the nine- to 27-year maturities and remaining unchanged in the 28- and 29-year maturities.

Municipals were stronger on Municipal Market Data's AAA benchmark scale, which showed both the 10-year muni general obligation yield and the yield on the 30-year muni maturity rising one basis point.

Treasury bonds were stronger as stocks traded lower.

On Monday, the 10-year muni-to-Treasury ratio was calculated at 82.4% while the 30-year muni-to-Treasury ratio stood at 97.0%, according to MMD. The muni-to-Treasury ratio compares the yield of tax-exempt municipal bonds with the yield of taxable U.S. Treasury with comparable maturities. If the muni/Treasury ratio is above 100%, munis are yielding more than Treasury; if it is below 100%, munis are yielding less.

Previous session's activity

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board reported 30,306 trades on Friday on volume of $9.92 billion.

California, New York and Texas were the states with the most trades, with the Golden State taking 16.128% of the market, the Empire State taking 15.764% and the Lone Star State taking 10.942%.

Primary market

The week's slate consists of $3.5 billion of negotiated deals and $932 million of competitive sales.

On Tuesday, JPMorgan Securities is set to price San Antonio's $330 million of Series 2018 general improvement bonds, combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation, tax notes, and taxable combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation. The deal is rated triple-A by Moody's Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is expected to price the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority's $305 million of Series 2015 A1, A2 A3 and 207 hospital revenue bonds for the Louisiana Children's Medical Center. The deal is rated A-plus by S&P.

Wells Fargo Securities is set to price the West Virginia Parkways Authority's $161 million of Series 2018 senior lien turnpike toll revenue bonds on Tuesday. The deal is rated AA-minus by S&P and Fitch.

Citigroup is expected to price the Forsyth County School District, Ga.'s $147 million of Series 2018 general obligation bonds on Tuesday. The deal is rated triple-A by Moody's and S&P.

In the short-term competitive sector, the Miami-Dade County School District is selling $335 million of Series 2018 tax anticipation notes on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Citigroup is set to price the Washington State Convention Center Public Facilities District's $974 million of Series 2018 lodging tax bonds and subordinate lodging tax bonds. The bonds will finance part of the construction associated with building an addition.

In the competitive arena, Maryland is selling two deals totaling over $500 million on Wednesday. The deals consist of $275.3 million of Bidding Group 1 state and local facilities loan of 2018 second series tax-exempt bonds and $234.71 million of Bidding Group 2 state and local facilities loan of 2018 second series tax-exempt bonds.

Bond Buyer 30-day visible supply at $10.03B

The Bond Buyer's 30-day visible supply calendar increased $2.15 billion to $10.03 billion for Tuesday. The total is comprised of $3.40 billion of competitive sales and $6.63 billion of negotiated deals.

Prior week's top underwriters

The top municipal bond underwriters of last week included JPMorgan Securities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, RBC Capital Markets, Wells Fargo Securities and Citigroup, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In the week of July 22 to July 28, JPMorgan underwrote $1.4 billion, BAML $1.1 billion, RBC $873 million, Wells Fargo $608.6 million, and Citi $353.9 million.

Fortuitous forecast

Combining interest-rate stability, low muni yield volatility, and below average year-to-date issuance with a flatter yield curve and benign credit conditions, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management maintains a "blue-sky setting" for municipals, according to executive director Matthew Gastall in a monthly municipal report.

"Though some U.S. Treasury volatility has been apparent, the laggard response that municipals exhibit versus broader fixed income price action has helped volatility in our market to remain subdued," he wrote.

This year's gross primary issuance is running roughly 13% below the primary market's year-to-date historical average, he noted, recognizing that the decline is a result of the limitations placed on advance refundings following the passage of last year's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In addition, only 14% of this year's gross supply has been issued solely for refinancings, compared to such deals accounting for approximately 34% of all volume between 2009 and 2017.

Roughly two-thirds of the state and local government asset class is controlled by households, he pointed out, since the vast majority of its investors seek wealth preservation and an income stream that is exempt from federal income taxes.

"As the securities are not as directly exposed to the global flows of the prodigious international base, municipals often outperform Treasury weakness and underperform rallies because of their slower response," he added.

Consequently, volatility metrics have hovered at minimal levels since the first quarter, he noted, with the five-, 10-, and 30-year triple-A Municipal Market Data benchmark yields trading within ranges of 28, 16, and 29 basis points, respectively, Gastall noted.

"Interest-rate stability and lower volatility have granted many investors comfort, helping the municipal asset class to perform well," he said in the report.

With trading activity slowing for the summer, Gastall believes this period is an advantageous one for investors to complete midyear portfolio reviews, including proper yield-curve positioning, coupon structure, credit-quality, sector/state diversification, and tax exposure.

Meanwhile, current trade tensions and the uncertainties of this year's midterm elections may bolster a flight-to-quality sentiment that could strengthen bond prices further, according to Gastall. "Simplistically, we believe this may be a smart time to study for the test, but not necessarily take it just yet unless a pressing issue is uncovered," he wrote.

"Investors should also remain cautious about overcommitting at present levels, as many catalysts that could incite additional fixed income weakness still exist," he continued. "These include changes in global monetary policy, U.S. deficit spending and borrowing concerns, transitioning inflationary metrics, above consensus economic growth," among others, he added.

Gastall suggests investors should maintain the appropriate exposures to cash, which has become increasingly attractive due to the bear-flattening of the yield curve and the continued possibility for additional weakness.

Prior week's actively traded issues

Revenue bonds comprised 55.14% of new issuance in the week ended July 27, up from 54.84% in the previous week, according to Markit. General obligation bonds made up 38.80% of total issuance, down from 38.89%, while taxable bonds accounted for 6.06%, down from 6.27% a week earlier.

Some of the most actively traded munis by type in the week were from New York, California and Illinois issuers.

In the GO bond sector, the New York City zeros of 2038 traded 24 times. In the revenue bond sector, the Los Angeles 4s of 2019 traded 56 times. And in the taxable bond sector, the Illinois 5.1s of 2033 traded 38 times.

Treasury plans to borrow $329B in Q3

The Treasury Department said it plans to borrow $329 billion in the third quarter, compared to an earlier estimate of $273 billion.

The borrowing assumes a $350 billion cash balance at quarter's end, the same as the prior estimate.

Treasury borrowed $72 billion in the second quarter, compared to the estimated $75 billion, ending with a $333 billion cash balance, compared to the expected $360 billion.

In the fourth quarter, Treasury expects to borrow $440 billion, ending the calendar year with a $390 billion cash balance.

Treasury to sell $65B 4-week bills

The Treasury Department said it will sell $65 billion of four-week discount bills Tuesday. There are currently $93.007 billion of four-week bills outstanding.

Treasury sells discount bills

Tender rates for the Treasury Department's latest 91-day and 182-day discount bills were higher, as the three-months incurred a 2.000% high rate, up from 1.970% the prior week, and the six-months incurred a 2.160% high rate, up from 2.140% the week before.

Coupon equivalents were 2.038% and 2.214%, respectively. The price for the 91s was 99.494444 and that for the 182s was 98.908000.

The median bid on the 91s was 1.970%. The low bid was 1.940%. Tenders at the high rate were allotted 71.22%. The bid-to-cover ratio was 2.87.

The median bid for the 182s was 2.140%. The low bid was 2.110%. Tenders at the high rate were allotted 73.19%. The bid-to-cover ratio was 3.14.

Gary Siegel contributed to this report.

Data appearing in this article from Municipal Bond Information Services, including the MBIS municipal bond index, is available on The Bond Buyer Data Workstation. Contact Ziad Saba at 212-803-6079 for more information.

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Municipal Bond Funds Draw Flood of Cash as Market Extends Gains

Wednesday, July 25, 2018
By Danielle Moran

(Bloomberg) -- Bondholders are no longer seeing losses from their investments in state and local-government debt -- and they're pouring money back into the market.

Mutual funds that focus on municipal bonds picked up $1.68 billion in the week through July 18, the biggest influx of cash since the end of January, according to the Investment Company Institute. It was and the eleventh straight weekly gain.

Strong demand comes as the market recovers from losses in January that left it in the red for much of the year. Municipal bonds have since swung to a 0.04 percent gain, a relatively strong showing given the 1.47 percent loss for Treasuries and 2.79 percent drop for corporate debt, according to Bloomberg Barclays indexes.

"Solid returns of the muni market over all relative to other fixed income sectors is what's drawing in the interest," said Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer of Miller Tabak Asset Management in New York, which manages $1.2 billion of municipal debt.

He said there's also "a lot of uncertainties in regards to tariffs and trade issues globally that is driving money into defensive sectors, particularly munis."

To contact the reporter on this story:
Danielle Moran in New York City at dmoran21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
James Crombie at jcrombie8@bloomberg.net, William Selway

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Municipal Bonds Gain the Most in a Year With Month's End Surge

Friday, June 1, 2018
By Danielle Moran

(Bloomberg) -- Municipal bonds had a good May.

The Bloomberg Barclays muni-bond index recorded its best month in a year, with the benchmark returning 1.15 percent in May. That was its biggest gain since a 1.59 percent increase a year earlier.

The market for state and local debt saw a month's-end boost from a Treasury rally Tuesday spurred by political unrest in Italy that had global investors fleeing to the safest assets, causing municipal yields to jump as much as eight basis points.

"What drove the performance was the level of interest as rates moved to more attractive absolute levels. Perhaps the market got a bit oversold," said Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer of Miller Tabak Asset Management in New York, which manages $1.2 billion of municipal debt. "Events that are accruing overseas, particularly in Italy assisted in the interest in the asset class."

Investors added cash to municipal-bond mutual funds for the last four weeks, illustrating strong demand for state and local debt, according to Lipper US Fund Flows data.

Summer typically sees demand outpace supply in the municipal market as the amount of money investors receive from debt payments tends to exceed the amount of new bonds being sold. This year, that imbalance could top $80 billion after Congress eliminated the tax break on a key debt refinancing tool and issuers rushed to market in December, said Nisha Patel, portfolio manager at Eaton Vance Management.

"The market has confounded investors since the end of last year," said Jon Thompson, analyst at Securian Asset Management, which has about $1.1 billion in municipals under management.

"While expectations might be setting up for a seasonally and typically strong summer, I wouldn't be willing to say, 'yeah that's going to happen' because the market hasn't performed really as investors have expected and as it has historically."

To contact the reporter on this story:
Danielle Moran in New York City at dmoran21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
James Crombie at jcrombie8@bloomberg.net, Michael B. Marois, William Selway

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Municipal bonds stabilize as San Antonio, N.C. Turnpike deals sell

Friday, April 26, 2018
By Christine Albano, Chip Barnett, and Aaron Weitzman

Municipal bonds steadied on Thursday after sliding the previous day, as the last of the week's new issuance came to market.

Traders said that the future tone of the market may depend on Treasurys.

"Municipals are trying to stabilize at the moment -- although further weakness is possible should Treasurys weaken," said Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer of Miller Tabak Asset Management.

"Absolute yields are attractive, but dealers are looking to lighten inventory further to minimize their losses," he said. "Investors with cash are in complete control of the municipal bond market."

Secondary market

Municipal bonds were mixed on Wednesday, according to a late read of the MBIS benchmark scale. Benchmark muni yields fell as much as a basis point in the three- to 13-year maturities and rose as much as a basis point in the one- to two-year and 14- to 30-year maturities.

High-grade munis were mixed as well, as yields calculated on MBIS' AAA scale fell by as much as one basis point in the three- to 13-year and 18- to 25-year maturities and rose as much as a basis point in the one- to two-year, 14- to 17-year and 26- to 30-year maturities.

Munis were stronger according to Municipal Market Data's AAA benchmark scale, which showed yields declining two basis points in the 10-year maturity and dropping two basis points in the 30-year maturity.

Treasury bonds were stronger in late trade, with the 10-year yield slipping below 3% as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq index all moved up.

Primary market

JPMorgan Securities priced San Antonio, Texas' $209.11 million of Series 2018A water system junior lien revenue and refunding bonds.

The deal is rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by S&P Global Ratings and AA by Fitch Ratings.

Since 2008, the Alamo City has sold about $12.2 billion of securities, with the largest volume during that period occurring in 2012 when it sold $2.05 billion and the least amount (excluding this year) in 2011 when it sold $411 million.

In the competitive arena, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority sold $150.13 million of Series 2018A appropriation revenue refunding bonds for the Triangle Expressway System.

JPMorgan won the bonds with a true interest cost of 3.651%.

The deal is rated Aa1 by Moody's and AA-plus by S&P.

U.S. Bank: Limited supply bolsters munis

A limited supply of new bond issues continues to support municipal debt, according to Bill Merz, head of fixed-income research at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

"Non-taxable municipals have outperformed the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index year to date on an absolute and tax-equivalent basis," Merz said in a report released late Wednesday. "Net new municipal bond issuance is expected to remain below 2017 levels and provide continued support for municipals."

Merz said that the steepness of the muni yield curve the difference between longer and shorter maturities makes extending maturity in high-quality municipals attractive for crossover buyers relative to Treasuries and investment-grade corporate debt.

Previous session's activity

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board reported 48,315 trades on Wednesday on volume of $15.57 billion.

California, New York and Texas were the states with the most trades, with the Golden State taking 16.977% of the market, the Empire State taking 13.124% and the Lone Star State taking 11.377%.

Tax-exempt money market funds saw outflows

Tax-exempt money market funds experienced outflows of $682.1 million, lowering their total net assets to $130.74 billion in the week ended April 24, according to The Money Fund Report, a service of iMoneyNet.com.

This followed an outflow of $2.30 billion on to $131.42 billion in the previous week.

The average, seven-day simple yield for the 202 weekly reporting tax-exempt funds climbed to 1.26% from 1.17% the previous week.

The total net assets of the 830 weekly reporting taxable money funds inched up to $22.7 million to $2.634 trillion in the week ended April 23, after an outflow of $25.76 billion to $2.634 trillion the week before.

The average, seven-day simple yield for the taxable money funds increased to 1.33% from 1.31% from the prior week.

Overall, the combined total net assets of the 1,032 weekly reporting money funds decreased $659.4 million to $2.764 trillion in the week ended April 23, after outflows of $28.06 billion to $2.765 trillion in the prior week.

Treasury announces auction details

The Treasury Department Thursday announced these auctions:

  • $42 billion 182-day bills selling on April 30; and
  • $48 billion 91-day bills selling on April 30.

Treasury sells $29B 7-year notes

The Treasury Department Thursday auctioned $29 billion of seven-year notes, with a 2 7/8% coupon and a 2.952% high yield, a price of 99.516250. The bid-to-cover ratio was 2.56.

Tenders at the high yield were allotted 72.28%. All competitive tenders at lower yields were accepted in full. The median yield was 2.900%. The low yield was 2.288%.

Gary Siegel contributed to this report.

Data appearing in this article from Municipal Bond Information Services, including the MBIS municipal bond index, is available on The Bond Buyer Data Workstation. Contact Vanessa Kim at 212-803-8474 for more information.

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Muni issuance blooms to $7.8B, led by Delta's $1.4B for LGA

Friday, April 20, 2018
By Aaron Weitzman and Chip Barnett

With tax season in the rear view mirror, municipal bond volume is set to rebound along with demand in the coming week.

Ipreo estimates volume will increase to $7.78 billion, from the revised total of $6.94 billion sold in the past week, according to updated figures from Thomson Reuters. The calendar for the week ahead is composed of $5.36 billion of negotiated deals and $2.42 billion in competitive sales.

Michael Pietronico, chief investment officer at Miller Tabak Asset Management said that the firm expects positive flows to gain steam as the market moves further away from tax season.

"We think supply [will] remain relatively light, and as such we expect some outperformance from municipals relative to Treasuries to occur over the summer months," he said.

He added that he's seen some high quality states with a preponderance of AAA rated credits trading on the sloppy side as the move to higher yields has picked up steam.

"We believe these type bonds are moving into the 'buy zone' as we suspect they will begin to outperform once it is apparent the Federal Reserve has slowed the economy with their short term interest rate hikes," Pietronico said. "Of particular note we believe AAA rated issuers within the state of Maryland are looking interesting on a relative basis."

Miller Tabak also believes poor technicals of the U.S. Treasury market will exert more influence over the municipal bond yield curve as Federal Government borrowing will remain elevated in the coming months.

"Tax-free bond investors should gravitate towards the areas of the municipal yield curve that offers more 'ratio' to Treasuries to help cushion any further drift higher in yields that may occur to help place the taxable supply," Pietronico said.

This upcoming slate is a chunky one, with 16 deals scheduled $100 million or larger, seven on the competitive side.

Citi will run the books on the largest deal of the week on Tuesday a $1.4 billion offering from the New York Transportation Development Corp., for Delta's redevelopment at LaGuardia Airport. The deal will include AMT bonds and is scheduled to mature serially from 2024 through 2034 with a term bond in 2038 and is rated Baa3 by Moody's Investors Service and BBB-minus by Fitch Ratings.

JPMorgan is scheduled to price the Texas Water Development Board's $804 million of state water implementation revenue fund for Texas revenue master trust bonds on Tuesday. The deal is rated triple-A by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch.

On the competitive side, two states are each selling a half-billion, also on Tuesday. The commonwealth of Massachusetts is selling general obligation bonds in two sales of $250 million. The deals are rated Aa1 by Moody's, AA by S&P and AA-plus by Fitch.

The state of Illinois is also selling GO bonds, one sale for $450 million and the other for $50 million. Both transactions are rated Baa3 by Moody's, BBB-minus by S&P and BBB by Fitch.

Week's actively traded issues

Some of the most actively traded bonds by type in the week ended April 20 were from Connecticut, Pennsylvania and California issuers, according to Markit.

In the GO bond sector, the University of Connecticut 4s of 2038 traded 37 times. In the revenue bond sector, the Montgomery County Higher Education and Health Authority, Pa., 4s of 2049 traded 57 times. And in the taxable bond sector, the California 4.6s of 2038 traded 117 times.

Week's actively quoted issues

Chicago, New York and Puerto Rico names were among the most actively quoted bonds in the week ended April 20, according to Markit.

On the bid side, the Chicago Boar of Education GO 5s of 2041 were quoted by 32 unique dealers. On the ask side, the New York City GO 3.375s of 2038 were quoted by 101 dealers. And among two-sided quotes, the Puerto Rico Commonwealth GO 8s of 2035 were quoted by 24 unique dealers.

Previous session's activity

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board reported 45,504 trades on Thursday on volume of $15.22 billion.

California, New York and Texas were the states with the most trades, with the Golden State taking 15.209% of the market, the Empire State taking 12.004% and the Lone Star State taking 9.521%

Lipper: Muni bond funds saw outflows

Investors in municipal bond funds continued to pull cash out of the funds, according to Lipper data released on Thursday.

The weekly reporters saw $515.154 million of outflows in the week ended April 18, after outflows of $244.735 million in the previous week.

Exchange traded funds reported outflows of $60.766 million, after inflows of $126.962 million in the previous week. Ex-ETFs, muni funds saw $454.389 million of outflows, after outflows of $371.967 million in the previous week.

The four-week moving average remained negative at -$242.552 million, after being in the red at -$2.401 million in the previous week. A moving average is an analytical tool used to smooth out price changes by filtering out fluctuations.

Long-term muni bond funds had outflows of $83.861 million in the latest week after inflows of $78.278 million in the previous week. Intermediate-term funds had inflows of $16.059 million after outflows of $10.979 million in the prior week.

National funds had outflows of $421.893 million after outflows of $184.593 million in the previous week. High-yield muni funds reported inflows of $45.728 million in the latest week, after inflows of $172.574 million the previous week.

Data appearing in this article from Municipal Bond Information Services, including the MBIS municipal bond index, is available on The Bond Buyer Data Workstation. Contact Vanessa Kim at 212-803-8474 for more information.

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Muni-Bond Funds See Head-Scratching Inflows Despite Losses

Friday, February 9, 2018
By Amanda Albright

(Bloomberg) -- The municipal bond market can thank volatile stocks for propping up demand even as state and local debt posts losses of its own.

Municipal-bond funds drew in $675 million in the week ended Wednesday, marking the fifth straight week of inflows, according to Lipper US Fund Flows data. The continued demand for tax- exempt debt comes despite the market's 1.4 percent loss this year, driven by concerns the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates more aggressively to slow the economy.

Investors are looking to state and local debt for stability as volatility in the equity market surges, said Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer of Miller Tabak Asset Management in New York, which oversees $1.2 billion in municipals. Inflows should continue unless interest rates are expected to rise more quickly than expected, he said.

"I would expect money to move in a slow and methodical fashion," Pietronico said.

Investors are looking to de-risk and are turning to the municipal market to do so, said Andrew Clinton, founder of Stamford, Connecticut-based Clinton Investment Management, which oversees more than $440 million of municipal bonds for wealthy investors.

"Most have come to the conclusion that while there may be further room to run in terms of valuation in risk assets, we're still much closer to the end of this cycle than the beginning," he said.

Municipal bond investors would typically rush to the exits once they notice that the market is posting losses, he said.

They might be deterred from doing so this time if they compare losses from state and local debt versus equities, he said.

"In light of what's transpired in recent days, it's all relative," Clinton said.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Amanda Albright in New York City at aalbright4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
James Crombie at jcrombie8@bloomberg.net, Michael B. Marois, William Selway

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Looking for positive signs in a dark and murky market

Friday, February 2, 2018
By Aaron Weitzman, Christine Albano, and Chip Barnett

Although market conditions are not pristine, with rising yields and little primary action, market participants expressed reason to believe the first week of February will be a positive one.

Ipreo estimates volume will do the limbo and go even lower to $3.83 billion, from the revised total of $3.59 billion sold in the past week, according to updated figures from Thomson Reuters. The calendar for the week ahead is composed of $2.60 billion of negotiated deals and $1.23 billion in competitive sales.

Municipal buyside experts reacted to the threat of rising rates with hope for a positive outcome next week amid liquidity concerns and lower supply.

"As Treasury rates back up, the selling pressure in the municipal market searches for demand," Peter Delahunt, managing director of municipals at Raymond James & Associates, said on Friday afternoon. "Dealers and arb desks with heavier inventories are hard pressed to provide liquidity," he explained. "One large bid list did give a glimpse into the lack of depth in our market. New issue supply next week will be fairly light at $4 billion, however the market will look at the larger deals for demand and price discovery at the new higher rates."

Michael Pietronico, CEO, Miller Tabak Asset Management, said that right now the market is in a good buy zone spot for those investors who can handle some price volatility.

"We would urge investors not to try and pick the top in yields but to dollar cost average into tax-free municipal bonds of superior quality," he said. "The recession will come the only unknown is the timing. Everything looks great right now in the economy which is reason to believe much of the good news has been priced in."

There are only 11 deals on this week's schedule of $100 million or larger, with the third and fourth largest of these being taxables, continuing an early 2018 trend. Three of those larger deals will come via the competitive route.

Goldman Sachs is set to price Harris County, Texas' $567.2 million of toll road senior lien revenue bonds on Wednesday. The deal is rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Fitch Ratings.

JPMorgan is scheduled to price the State of Utah's $326.425 million of general obligation on Tuesday. The deal is rated triple-A by Moody's, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch.

Citi is slated to price the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Obligated Group, N.H.'s $302 million of taxable bonds on Wednesday. The deal is rated A by S&P and Fitch.

Citi is also expected to price the State of Delaware's $250 million of taxable GO bonds on Wednesday for the Port of Wilmington Projects. The deal is rated triple-A by Moody's, S&P and Fitch.

Week's actively traded issues

Some of the most actively traded bonds by type in the week ended Feb. 2 were from New York, Georgia and California issuers, according to Markit.

In the GO bond sector, the New York City zeroes of 2038 traded 21 times. In the revenue bond sector, the Main Street Natural Gas Inc. of Ga.'s 4s of 2048 traded 42 times. And in the taxable bond sector, the California 2.193s of 2047 traded 42 times.

Week's actively quoted issues

California and New Jersey names were among the most actively quoted bonds in the week ended Feb. 2, according to Markit.

On the bid side, California taxable 7.55s of 2039 were quoted by 35 unique dealers. On the ask side, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority revenue 4s of 2043 were quoted by 241 dealers. And among two-sided quotes, the California taxable 7.55s of 2039 were quoted by 24 unique dealers.

Lipper: Muni bond funds saw inflows

Investors in municipal bond funds again put cash into the funds in the latest week, according to Lipper data released on Thursday.

The weekly reporters saw $235.926 million of inflows in the week of Jan. 31, after inflows of $781.160 million in the previous week.

Exchange traded funds reported outflows of $16.893 million, after outflows of $17.950 million in the previous week. Ex-ETFs, muni funds saw $252.819 million of inflows, after inflows of $799.110 million in the previous week.

The four-week moving average was positive at $789.939 million, after being in the green at $811.354 million in the previous week. A moving average is an analytical tool used to smooth out price changes by filtering out fluctuations.

Long-term muni bond funds had inflows of $170.114 million in the latest week after inflows of $772.983 million in the previous week. Intermediate-term funds had inflows of $264.852 million after inflows of $329.453 million in the prior week.

National funds had inflows of $347.233 million after inflows of $776.001 million in the previous week.

High-yield muni funds reported outflows of $143.414 million in the latest week, after inflows of $32.551 million the previous week.

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What the muni bond market is saying about Trump's infrastructure plan

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
By Chip Barnett and Christine Albano

Municipal bond market participants are weighing in on what they think about what President Trump said about infrastructure in his State of the Union address.

The president on Tuesday night called for Congress to pass legislation that will generate at least $1.5 trillion for new infrastructure investment, but he provided no details on how it should be funded.

Some members of the buyside community feel the infrastructure plan may be too much for lawmakers, municipalities, and investors to swallow after barely having time to digest the latest tax amendments that kicked off the New Year.

"Given the recent passage of tax reform we sense that members of both political parties may be concerned with potentially adding to the federal deficit," Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer at Miller Tabak Asset Management, said in an interview on Wednesday.

"While the case can be made for states to work alongside the federal government on this initiative, we remain of the mindset that out-sized pension obligations are handcuffing lawmakers at the local level," he said. "It is for this reason we sense infrastructure spending may become more of a 2019 possibility after the results of the midterm elections."

Other buyside participants said the $1.5 billion infrastructure proposal is still in its infancy -- and therefore wasn't disappointing as much as it just wasn't ironed out yet.

"It's going to be something that is a political process," said Ron Schwartz, managing director and senior portfolio manager at Seix Investment Advisors, who manages $1.4 billion in tax-exempt mutual funds and separately managed accounts.

"We will see what is proposed and if it can pass through Congress. Right now, there's nothing to say about it because there are no details about it," he said, adding that he hadn't expected President Trump to provide details Tuesday.

"I'm not sure they know what it will be at this point in time," Schwartz added. "They have to figure out the plan they want to set up, and once they have their plan set up, they will release it."

Others were not convinced.

"I am skeptical of the announcement," John Donaldson, director of fixed income at Haverford Trust, said in an interview on Wednesday afternoon. The few details seem to indicate that very little federal money will be involved in the stimulus plan and there are many rumors about actual figures involved, he said.

He also questioned the fundamentals of how municipalities would be involved and how the plan would translate into day-to-day operations on some of the aging infrastructure.

"For the vast majority of necessary projects; how do those who fund the difference earn an acceptable return? Bridges not [located] on toll roads that need replacing do not generate revenue. All of the older dams that need replacing do not generate revenue," he said.

"I am sure that we are not the only city that has suffered multiple water main breaks on very cold days," Donaldson said. "If cities could charge rates sufficient to replace aging systems, new pipes would already be there."

Donaldson said he was in a position to see the earliest Infrastructure funds in 2006-2007.

"The ones that were most successful were private equity funds in disguise," he explained. "That is, they bought assets and then sold them at a profit. The promise of long-lived assets generating cash flows for long-term investors has always appeared to be more myth than reality."

Donaldson said there are various turnpike and parking assets as evidence of projects not meeting projections.

"I doubt there will be any impact on the muni market until a plan has more defined revenue generation to repay potential lenders," he added.

The market will now be waiting for any further word from the White House on what form the financing and funding for this huge program could take.

Primary market

Morgan Stanley priced Kansas City, Mo.'s $165 million of Series 2018A sanitary sewer system improvement revenue bonds.

The issue was priced to yield from 1.83% with a 4% coupon in 2021 to 3.51% with a 4% coupon in 2035; a 2042 maturity was priced as 4s to yield 3,55%. A 2019 maturity was offered as a sealed bid.

The deal is rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by S&P Global Ratings.

Since 2008, Kansas City, Mo., has sold about $2.99 billion of bonds, with the most issuance occurring in 2016 when it sold $517 million and the least amount in 2010 when it sold $81 million.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch priced the School Board of Palm Beach County, Fla.'s $114.73 million of Series 2018A certificates of participation.

The COPs were priced as 5s to yield from 1.38% in 2018 to 2.65% in 2027.

The deal is rated Aa3 by Moody's and AA-minus by Fitch Ratings.

There are no competitive sales of $100 million or above slated for the week.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch received the official award on the Upper Arlington City School District, Ohio's $230 million of Series 2018A school facilities construction and improvement GOs and Series 2018B taxable school facilities construction and improvement GOs.

The deal is rated Aa1 by Moody's and AAA by S&P.

JPMorgan Securities received the written award on the Arizona Board of Regents $110.84 million of University of Arizona system revenue bonds.

The deal is rated Aa2 by Moody's and AA-minus by S&P.

Secondary market

The Federal Open Market Committee left interest rates unchanged at the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting. It was Janet Yellen's last FOMC meeting and set the stage for a rate hike in March under her successor Jerome Powell.

The MBIS municipal non-callable 5% GO benchmark scale was weaker in late trading while the MBIS AAA scale was also weaker.

The 10-year MBIS muni benchmark yield rose to 2.586% on Wednesday from the final read of 2.565% on Tuesday, according to Municipal Bond Information Services. The MBIS 30-year benchmark muni yield gained to 3.027% from 3.013%.

The 10-year MBIS muni AAA yield increased to 2.496% on Wednesday from the final read of 2.464% on Tuesday, according to Municipal Bond Information Services. The MBIS 30-year AAA muni yield rose to 2.927% from 2.905%.

The MBIS benchmark index is updated hourly on the Bond Buyer Data Workstation.

Top-rated municipal bonds finished mixed on Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year benchmark muni general obligation rose one basis point to 2.35% from 2.34% on Tuesday, while the 30-year GO yield was unchanged from 2.91%, according to the final read of MMD's triple-A scale.

On Wednesday, the 10-year muni-to-Treasury ratio was calculated at 86.5% compared with 84.1% on Tuesday, while the 30-year muni-to-Treasury ratio stood at 96.6% versus 99.0%, according to MMD.

MSRB: Previous session's activity

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board reported 45,113 trades on Tuesday on volume of $10.87 billion.

California, New York and Texas were the three states with the most trades on Tuesday, with the Golden State taking 15.119% of the market, the Empire State taking 11.668% and the Lone Star State taking 11.056%.

--Aaron Weitzman contributed to this report.

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Lower and slower looks like new normal for muni market

Monday, January 8, 2018
By Chip Barnett and Aaron Weitzman

The municipal bond market was quiet Monday as traders waited for this week's new issue sales to get underway with competitive deals on Tuesday from Massachusetts and Fairfax County, Va.

Trading was subdued in the secondary, with prices ending the day little changed.

Primary market

After a slow start to 2018, this week's volume picks up a bit and is estimated at $3.30 billion; the calendar is made up of $1.72 billion of negotiated deals and $1.58 billion of competitive sales.

"January tends to be a tad sluggish in the beginning of the month," Stephen Winterstein, managing director at Wilmington Trust, wrote in a weekly market comment. "In point of fact, over the past 32 years since 1986, the first month of the year has averaged only 6% of that year's total supply, whereas the final three months of the year have averaged 9%. The month with the highest average new issuance over that same time period is May, at 11%."

Wilmington Trust's Stephen Winterstein says after December's issuance flood, supply slowed in the first week of 2018.

Wilmington Trust expects supply to accelerate to a more normal pace, though Winterstein said that the elimination of tax-exempt advance refundings will subdue issuance in 2018. The firm's municipal supply estimate for 2018 is about $350 billion, a 20% decline from last year.

"After December's $62.502 billion flood of new issuance, supply slowed in the first week of 2018 to a scant $42.100 million," Winterstein wrote. "The slowing of new deals should serve as a support mechanism for municipal bond prices. While we are closely watching retail demand as measured by mutual fund flows, the institutional market appears to be on firm footing for the upcoming week."

Others also saw light issuance ahead for the near-term.

"With a rush to issue in Q4 ahead of new tax laws, we expect Q1 2018 will see a lull in supply," Morgan Stanley said in a Monday market comment. "We think about $20 billion was pulled forward into Q4, and now expect 2018 gross supply will be $315 billion, net supply of -$23 billion."

Michael Pietronico, chief executive officer at Miller Tabak Asset Management said he expects new issue supply will be met with solid demand.

Michael Pietronico, CEO of Miller Tabak Asset Management

"The technical forces in the market remain quite favorable," he said. "We think that buyers have plenty of cash and are looking for tax-free bonds. So perhaps taxable deals might need more concession to garner interest."

Primary activity on Tuesday will center in the competitive sector.

Massachusetts is competitively selling $600 million of unlimited tax general obligation bonds in two separate offerings.

The issues consist of $400 million of consolidated loan of 2018 Series A GOs and $200 million of consolidated loan of 2018 Series B GOs.

Both deals are rated Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service, AA by S&P Global Ratings and AA-plus by Fitch Ratings

The last time the state competitively sold comparable bonds was on Oct. 18, 2017, when Bank of America Merrill Lynch won $300 million of consolidated loan of 2017 Series E GOs with a true interest cost of 2.8724%.

Fairfax County, Va., is selling $225.19 million of Series 2018A unlimited tax GO public improvement bonds.

The deal is rated triple-A by Moody's, S&P and Fitch.

The Roseville Area Schools Independent School District No. 623, Minn., is selling $139.24 million of Series 2018A unlimited tax GO school building bonds.

The deal is being sold under the Minnesota School District Credit Enhancement Program.

Later in the week, Morgan Stanley is expected to price the Stanford Health Care's $500 million of Series 2018 corporate CUSIP taxables on Wednesday, RBC Capital Markets is expected to price the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Financing Authority's $410 million of Series 2-018A taxable revenue bonds on Thursday while JPMorgan Securities is set to price the Illinois Finance Authority's $218.67 million of Series 2018 taxable revenue refunding bonds on Thursday.

Previous week's actively traded issues

Revenue bonds comprised 56.45% of new issuance in the week ended Jan. 5, up from 56.41% in the previous week, according to Markit. General obligation bonds made up 37.83% of total issuance, down from 38.10%, while taxable bonds accounted for 5.72%, up from 5.49% a week earlier.

Some of the most actively traded bonds by type in the week were from New York and Illinois issuers.

In the GO bond sector, the New York City zeroes of 2042 were traded 31 times. In the revenue bond sector, the New York City Municipal Water Finance Authority zeroes of 2050 were traded 24 times. And in the taxable bond sector, the Illinois 5.1s of 2033 were traded 12 times.

Secondary market

The MBIS municipal non-callable 5% GO benchmark scale was steady in late trading.

The 10-year muni benchmark yield was unchanged on Monday from the final read of 2.275% on Friday, according to Municipal Bond Information Services. The MBIS 30-year benchmark muni yield was steady from 2.748%.

The MBIS benchmark index is updated hourly on the Bond Buyer Data Workstation.

Top-rated municipal bonds finished mixed on Monday. The yield on the 10-year benchmark muni general obligation was steady from 2.01% on Friday, while the 30-year GO yield rose one basis point to 2.59% from 2.58% according to the final read of MMD's triple-A scale.

U.S. Treasuries were little changed in late activity. The yield on the two-year Treasury slipped to 1.95% on Monday from 1.96% on Friday, the 10-year Treasury yield was unchanged from 2.48% and the yield on the 30-year Treasury was flat from 2.81%.

On Monday, the 10-year muni-to-Treasury ratio was calculated at 81.0% compared with 81.2% on Friday, while the 30-year muni-to-Treasury ratio stood at 92.1% versus 91.8%, according to MMD.

MSRB: Previous session's activity

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board reported 38,762 trades on Friday on volume of $10.35 billion.

Prior week's top underwriters

The top municipal bond underwriters of last week included RBC Capital Markets, Stifel, BB&T Capital Markets, Roosevelt & Cross and Robert W. Baird, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In the week of Jan. 1 to Jan. 6, RBC underwrote $566.7 million, Stifel $116.0 million, BB&T $37.7 million, R&C $10.5 million, and Baird $8.4 million.

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