1. Home
  2. Perspectives
  3. Sector Views
  4. Municipals: Emphasis on Quality

Sector Views

Municipals: Emphasis on Quality

December 15, 2016

Rising pension liabilities remain a concern, but strong technicals support the municipal market.

 
This sector report is excerpted from the Fourth Quarter 2016 Fixed-Income Outlook.

States’ fiscal-year 2016 financial statement disclosures have illuminated a common theme of substantial net pension liability growth overwhelming operating results, growth of tax receipts, and the replenishment of rainy day funds. A combination of poor investment results relative to inflated return assumptions, rising pension costs, and underfunded contributions have yielded countless negative headlines. We expect many states and municipalities will face significant financial choices as rising pension costs threaten other policy initiatives in 2017, placing pressure on capital projects and appropriation-backed bonds. Against this backdrop, strong technicals continue to support the municipal market, primarily driven by 52 consecutive weeks of inflows to mutual funds by the traditional investor base. Enhancing this demand is a new group of investors from Asia and Europe who are attracted to positive yields, diversification, and low historic default rates. For both traditional and foreign investors, a rise in interest rates may not dampen their respective appetite as alternatives to the municipal market’s risk-adjusted yields become harder to find. Our focus continues to be on credit discipline and bonds supported by dedicated revenue streams and/or statutory liens as robust technicals drive the market toward conceding on legal structures.

Municipal Bonds’ Investor Base Broadens

While individuals and mutual funds have historically been the largest source of demand for municipal bonds, our analysis shows that they have been losing market share by 1-2 percent per year since 2009, from 78 percent to 69 percent as of the third quarter. Life insurance, U.S. chartered depository institutions, and foreign holdings combined have gained that 9 percent difference. We believe this to be a positive shift, as it diversifies and broadens the buyer base.

Municipal-Bonds’-Investor-Base-Broadens.png

Source: SIFMA, Guggenheim Investments. Data as of 10.15.2016.

Municipal bonds posted their first quarterly loss of the year in the third quarter of 2016, with the broad Municipal bond index falling 0.3 percent. All credit ratings suffered losses, with AAA, AA, A, and BBB-rated bonds posting losses of 0.5, 0.4, 0.1, and 0.3 percent, respectively. Hardest hit were long-dated municipal bonds (+22 year maturity), which lost 0.7 percent.

Separate from fundamental credit risk and money market reform, the ensuing investor redemptions of short-term paper have pushed the SIFMA Municipal Swap Index, a benchmark used for short-term municipal borrowing, to over 80bps, up from 1bp in early 2016. The sharp increase in the SIFMA rate will directly impact roughly $175 billion of variable-rate demand notes (VRDNs). While U.S. regulations have caused higher financing costs for state and local governments, further unintended consequences can be expected subsequent to the policies of the next presidential administration in 2017.

Floating-Rate Assets Look Increasingly Attractive

Money market reform and the ensuing investor redemptions of short-term paper have pushed the SIFMA Municipal Swap index, a benchmark used for short-term municipal borrowing, to over 80 basis points, up from 1 basis point in early 2016. VRDNs have floating coupons which reset based on this swap index rate. These assets are looking more attractive on a taxable-equivalent basis as the benchmark rate rises.

Floating-Rate-Assets-Look-Increasingly-Attractive.png

Source: Federal Reserve Financial Accounts, Guggenheim Investments. Data as of Q2 2016.

—James Pass, Senior Managing Director; Allen Li, CFA, Managing Director

 
Important Notices and Disclosures

This article is distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investing advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. It contains opinions of the authors but not necessarily those of Guggenheim Partners or its subsidiaries. The authors’ opinions are subject to change without notice. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not assured as to accuracy. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Investing involves risk. In general, the value of fixed-income securities fall when interest rates rise. High-yield securities present more liquidity and credit risk than investment grade bonds and may be subject to greater volatility. Asset-backed securities, including mortgage-backed securities, may have structures that make their reaction to interest rates and other factors difficult to predict, making their prices volatile and they are subject to liquidity risk. Investments in floating rate senior secured syndicated bank loans and other floating rate securities involve special types of risks, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and prepayment risk. Guggenheim Investments represents the following affiliated investment management businesses of Guggenheim Partners, LLC: Guggenheim Partners Investment Management, LLC, Security Investors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Investment Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC, Guggenheim Real Estate, LLC, GS GAMMA Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Partners Europe Limited and Guggenheim Partners India Management. ©2016, Guggenheim Partners, LLC. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission of Guggenheim Partners, LLC.

Guggenheim Investments represents the following affiliated investment management businesses of Guggenheim Partners, LLC: Guggenheim Partners Investment Management, LLC, Security Investors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Investment Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC, Guggenheim Real Estate, LLC, Transparent Value Advisors, LLC, GS GAMMA Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Partners Europe Limited and Guggenheim Partners India Management.



Sector Views

High-Yield and Bank Loan Outlook: Focus on Floating Rate

Conditions bode well for credit, but a more aggressive Fed and geopolitics could bring volatility. 

Read More

Portfolio Strategy

The ABCs of ABS

Finding value in complexity: The structure, risks, and investor-friendly features of asset-backed securities.

Read More

Global CIO Outlook

A Contrarian's View on Inflation Fears

Longer-term bond yields are near their highs for this cycle, while the environment for riskier assets like high-yield bonds, bank loans and stocks remains positive.

Read More



Read a prospectus and summary prospectus (if available) carefully before investing. It contains the investment objective, risks charges, expenses and the other information, which should be considered carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus and summary prospectus (if available) click here or call 800.820.0888.

Guggenheim Investments represents the investment management businesses of Guggenheim Partners, LLC ("Guggenheim"), which includes Security Investors, LLC ("SI"), Guggenheim Funds Investment Advisors, LLC, ("GFIA") and Guggenheim Partners Investment Management ("GPIM") the investment advisers to the referenced funds. Securities offered through Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC, an affiliate of Guggenheim, SI, GFIA and GPIM.

© Guggenheim Investments. All rights reserved.

Research our firm with FINRA Broker Check.

• Not FDIC Insured • No Bank Guarantee • May Lose Value

This website is directed to and intended for use by citizens or residents of the United States of America only. The information provided does not constitute a solicitation of an offer to buy, or an offer to sell securities in any jurisdiction, or to any person to who, it is not lawful to make such an offer. All content has been provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be construed as, (i) a recommendation; (ii) legal or tax advice; and/or (iii) a legal opinion. Always consult a financial, tax and /or legal professional regarding your specific situation. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.