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Municipal Market Newsletter Archive

Not The Same As The Old Year

January 11th, 2018 by Kurt L. Smith

Happy 2018 to you and yours! I hope 2017 was a good year for you and may 2018 be wonderful.

One always tries to keep the wind at your back and this appears to be the consensus with investors. Optimism is extremely high and the business press (and stock market performance) reflects this sentiment.

This is the definition of trend. To be the trend it must show general tendency AND it needs to continue long enough to get noticed. The trend is your friend because you are an investor, not a trader. The trend can provide you sound grounding to make decisions as well as a framework for what may come.

These past several months we have discussed the next move in the continuing trend for bonds as well as a change in the trend for stocks. Bonds hit their high in price (low in yield) on September 8th. Since then, rates have slowly risen, while I believed they would move up faster. The ten year US Treasury was 2.01% in September, a 2.47% high in November and a new 2.50% high in December. Two year treasuries were 1.25% in September, 1.78% higher in November and a new 1.92% high in December and 1.97% this past week.

The reason I continue to write about bond yields is because it is important to know the trend. I marked the end of the bond bull market back in 2012. Buyers of long-term bonds back in 2012 invested in low yields, their current bond value is less to boot as rates have risen and bond prices have fallen. (more…)

They Are All Markets

December 15th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

Well, so much for Top of Tops. Last month’s market call that both bonds and stocks were headed lower, proved premature. The September-October bond market decline failed to gather downward momentum while stocks added another leg upward.

While 1,000 Dow points isn’t what it used to be (lately about 4%, whereas 10% or more in years of yore), it is still 1,000 points. For me, a 1,000 points of wrong, but that’s the way markets can behave.

Take Bitcoin, everyone’s favorite (new) subject. In what appeared to be a  frothy, over-extended market, Bitcoin merely added another fifty percent.  And that was just last week!

Does one have to do with the other? Can the frothiness of Bitcoin and the added leg up in stocks or the pause in the bond bear market be related? Yes, they are all related: they are all markets. (more…)

Top of Tops

November 6th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

Relish in all of the good news? Certainly you must be joking? All-time highs for stocks and bond yields seemingly at low-forever yields (meaning high forever prices) and I want to rain on this parade? In a word, just one word, yes!

The reason why I have been keeping you apprised of the albeit slow changes in the bond market is because the trend change is beyond important: it is generational. Who knew that the next and most impactful move in the bond market would also occur at the all-time high for stock prices?

We have been keeping score vis-à-vis the ten year US Treasury note. Indeed the note did hit a low of 2.01% on September 8th and yields hit 2.47% on October 27th. Not the radical change I had predicted last month, but not bad and moving in the right direction.

I am focused on bonds and the bond market as reflected by yields on the ten year treasury. We can also look at the bellwether thirty year which should be at a low here at 2.85% up from 2.63% on September 8th. These low yields certainly fit the narrative of low yields. They will not remain low for much longer; certainly not forever. (more…)

Slow Moving Bond Bear To Quicken

October 16th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

The trend is indeed your friend and the only friend one has needed these past few years has been the one in stocks. Despite the fact that municipal bonds were the best performing asset class in 2014 (yeah, that long ago), stocks are where the action is. Enjoy it, because trends change.

When it comes to bonds, only two words are needed: low rates. Forget trend change; forget even a price or yield change. When it comes to bonds, low rates is all you need to know. Spoken by stock market pundits, why would anyone be concerned about bonds? Stocks are where the action is.

Rates are indeed low, but they have been lower. The reason we care is because the trend is your friend and when it comes to bonds, the trend has changed. You know it because I keep telling you. Sure it’s a lonely proposition, but the market continues, albeit v-e-r-y slowly, that I am indeed correct.

In June, I believed a 2.13% low on the ten year treasury completed the bond market’s correction of the 1.32% to 2.64% initial move up. Yep, I tried to hurry the market. In September the market hit 2.02%. But last week we were back to 2.40%. I like my proposition!

At rates of 2-this or 2-that, every stock investor will continue to claim the low rate mantra. But after a 1,000 or 5,000 point decline in the Dow, the perspectives will change. The story will change. (more…)

Catastrophic Disaster

September 1st, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

Our heart and prayers go out to the residents and all affected in the ongoing disaster of Hurricane Harvey. The loss of life and property will continue to upend millions of lives for a long, long time.

I had begun this month’s letter before Harvey hit Texas noting that another summer month had passed and well, nothing happened. There is nothing un-unusual about a slowdown in the summer months, but with volatility at historical lows for both stocks and bonds, this summer became a virtual standstill.

We are used to slow times in the municipal bond market. Save a quarter or two in 2013 and another burst late last year, the past five years have been horrible volume-wise. Yet somehow we continue to scratch and claw finding worthwhile bonds along the way.

And now Harvey. EPIC, widespread, catastrophic, such adjectives seem to fall short of understanding the consequences of a foot of rain, or two, or three or four feet. We aren’t talking about an island, or a city, but an entire region of my huge state. And yes, there was a hurricane too, devastating Rockport and Port Aransas. (more…)

Moving Ahead

August 3rd, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

Narratives make great stories, coaxing investors to invest but rarely the impetus to sell.  Narratives, the stories about why the market is behaving this way or that, add fuels to the fire of salesmanship and lines up well for the growing herd, the multitude of trend followers. 

The great narrative of the past few years has been yields are (and will forever be) low, so you should add riskier assets to your portfolio. This narrative has been in place so long ( for years) it appears it will never change.

Our approach shows otherwise. In the incredibly unique world of municipal bond investing, opportunities have existed in high quality credits that are not available in any other asset class. In a world focused on scale, size, generic products and spread, the municipal bond market offers this as well as alternatives to this. (more…)

The Plan Unfolds

July 13th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

It has been twelve months since the end of the hockey-sticked shape mania of long-term bond prices. Markets don’t trend in straight lines, so over the past twelve months I have used this letter to help you navigate where we are on the journey towards a collapse in long-term bond prices.

The July 2017 letter called the top in long-term bond pricing while subsequent letters followed the initial move to December lows and last month’s call that the correction was over. After a correction price high on June 12th, long-term bonds have declined in price for the past twelve trading days (as of the writing of this letter).

Of course it may be better to be lucky than good, but I will accept any good fortune that comes our way. This letter provides me the opportunity to put forth my opinion, however much in the minority it may be, and I intend to take the opportunity because I believe it is quite important when a collapse in the long-term bond market is involved. (more…)

Capitulation

June 14th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

It is not often that followers of the all-too-staid bond markets get to use the word capitulation. Usually things don’t move fast enough (or far enough) to warrant the use of the word. We, however, having declared the end of a three decades long trend, see a significant change taking place.

We marked late 2012 as the end of the bull market in Bonds, though the hockey-stick final mania in the longest maturing bonds didn’t occur until last spring, culminating July 6, 2016. Shorter term bond yields had risen since 2012 while the 10 year US Treasury bottomed at 1.32%, a significant turning point in trend.

The second half of 2016 saw yields spike to 2.64%, such that by year-end (December 2016 Letter) we called for a correction of this first move in the long-term bear market for long-term bonds. Indeed yields moderated back down to 2.13% early in June. So far so good and right along our projected path.

Which brings us to today. Actually it was a June 9th Bloomberg headline that used Capitulation, saying “Investors betting on rising bond yields just threw in the towel in a big way, according to Bank of America.” Citing the “biggest inflows to bonds in well over two years”, BofA concluded the performance of credit equities are “highly correlated.” (more…)

A Buy and Hold World

May 5th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

The municipal bond market is not so much of a market as it is a distribution scheme. Each week new issues of municipal bonds are sold, or distributed, to buyers looking for bonds like these offered. The bonds may disappear immediately or usually they are all distributed to buyers over several weeks.

The end result is the bonds are distributed. We can’t control whether or not any bonds are later offered or enter the marketplace. Last month I wrote that it only takes one: one bond coming back into the marketplace that may prove to be worthwhile for us.

This means the bulk of all municipal bonds are bought and held. With long-term bond yields trending down for thirty-plus years (and prices trending higher), a buy and hold strategy has been a winning strategy.

Yet somehow, someway, bonds come into the marketplace each and every day in an attempt to be redistributed. Thankfully not every bond holder buy and holds, so at least we get an opportunity to see if the bonds they are selling are worth buying. (more…)

It Only Takes One

April 10th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

After four months of sideways price (yield) action in bonds, one might tend to believe nothing has changed or nothing is happening. Thankfully the municipal bond market offers us tens of thousands of unique opportunities over a similar timespan.

Ten year treasury notes doubled in yield from 1.32% to 2.64% in the second half of 2016, but for 2017 the market has traded in a narrow range. This corrective phase may already be complete or we may have more time to diddle. The important takeaway is that I believe the market for longer-term bonds will resolve into much higher yields and much lower prices. (more…)

NEWS FEED

RT: Gross: Bond bear market confirmed today. 25 year long-term trendlines broken in 5yr and 10yr maturity Treasuries.