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Posts Tagged ‘Municipal bond’

March 6th

March 30th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

I pray this letter finds you and your loved ones healthy. My prayers are with the first responders and the healthcare professionals on the front-line saving lives and protecting ours.

This is the most important letter I have ever written. My hope is you will pass it along to your loved ones and friends because I believe the message is very important.

I have spent my entire career, over thirty years focused on the bond markets. Long-time readers know I have been writing that the latest move in financial assets (stocks, bonds, gold) is the end of something, namely the end of their long-term bull markets. As tens of billions of dollars is now being poured into cash in the form of money market accounts, it appears some may agree, and they may be scared as well.

I know you have a choice with your money, and I appreciate your trust in me and my abilities especially in these volatile times. I believe it is important for you to more fully understand bonds as well as sharing this letter with others who may find it helpful.

In the United States, bonds account for about $33 trillion dollars in assets: US Treasury securities make up about $17 trillion, corporate bonds $10 trillion, mortgages $10 trillion and municipals $3.9 trillion (all courtesy of SIFMA.org). The Federal Reserve has recently increased its balance sheet to $5 trillion, primarily in US Treasuries and mortgages (courtesy federalreserve.gov) leaving a lot of bonds in other’s hands with the bulk either professionally managed including in mutual funds.

Mutual funds, with their quoted net asset values (NAV) and performance data available on the internet may appear to be similar as both can easily be reallocated with a point and a click.  Both have the same disclaimer: “Past success does not guarantee future performance.”  But they are as dissimilar as a stock is from a bond.

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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…)

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…)

The Coming Change

October 15th, 2016 by Kurt L. Smith

If you frame the world in the context of long-term financial trends, you may see a world without change. Thirty five-plus year bull markets for stocks and bonds are where we have been and where we currently are. Not only have interest rates fallen from all-time record highs in the early 1980’s to all-time record lows lately, but the prospect for lower interest rates longer is the consensus for as far as the eye can see.

Market moves of this historic magnitude are what books are made for, not a monthly letter. After thirty five-plus years, what’s another one year, or five years? The consensus is lower longer. In other words, the consensus is for no change.

Yet the conditions for change continue to swell. Some people are angry, very angry, about our economic situation. Sure we have had one of our worst rebounds from a recession possibly ever. Some young people are asked to assume more and more debt while facing an insecure economic time. But angry?  We are discovering the business model for pension funds is not working.  Older workers, increasingly teachers, police, firefighters and other municipal workers are becoming increasingly aware how the ongoing lower longer outlook will impact them dramatically. (more…)

Thankfully, You Own Municipals

September 9th, 2016 by Kurt L. Smith

While interest rates may appear they will be low, perhaps forever, we are always encouraged when we look back over the past months and years and discover we’ve actually fared well. Municipals are indeed unique and that is why we can continue to scratch and claw, but most importantly make headway by investing in them.

Bonds, particularly municipal bonds have participated in a multi-month rally that was over-extended months ago. As a consequence, we believed stocks would also rally, continuing the tandem performance that has been a hallmark of the financial markets these past thirty-plus years.

Indeed the major stock averages have set many new all-time high marks this summer. Stocks may have a few more months to rally, but the bond rally may be over.  As conviction and certainty for low rates (forever) continued, the bond market appears to have made a top in price that may stand for many, many years. (more…)

First Bonds, Now Stocks

August 8th, 2016 by Kurt L. Smith

The bond market has performed well of late and municipal bonds added to their top ranked performance last year. Yields seem to move in only one direction, down, making prices appear to only go up.

Around the world bond prices have gone up so much, yields on trillions of dollars of bonds are now negative. The trend in bond prices has continued for so long (thirty-plus years) and has produced seemingly consistent returns for so long, investors seem loath to do anything except buy more.

Whatever the reason, whatever the narrative, almost all pundits are on the same side of the boat: low yields and high prices will continue. Money managers may be buying high priced negative yielding bonds now because they are judged on their current performance, not the negative performance calculated if they hold the bonds to maturity in five, ten or more years. Good performance seems to beget good performance, so enjoy the ride!

If you liked the bond market rally this year then I think you will really enjoy the stock market rally which appears to be gathering steam. Stocks rebounded from their early season low in February and new all-time highs are being set regularly of late. Like bonds, as the rally continues to gather momentum, expect stocks to generate excitement, the excitement previously held for bonds. (more…)

Over The Top

May 16th, 2016 by Kurt L. Smith

For the past several months we have discussed the manic moves of municipal bonds. As one of the best performing asset classes last year, it looked like we would be poised to experience follow-through this year with additional new money flowing into municipal bonds.

Indeed this has been the case. Money flows into tax free municipal bond funds continues week after week. Not only are new deals like the one’s presented at the bottom of each month’s newsletter selling well in the marketplace, we are also seeing intense competition for bonds in the secondary market. In a word, the market in my opinion is “hot”. But after several months of “hot”, the market seems to me to be “over the top”. (more…)

Blessed Are Municipals

April 11th, 2016 by Kurt L. Smith

Rare is my newsletter with good things to say.  How about “it is good to be an investor in municipal bonds!”  As I wrote several months back, municipals were one of the top performing sectors last year.  Now we are going to discover how long the ride may be.

I am not recanting my position that Bonds peaked in price (bottomed in yield) way back in 2012.  I stand by my position.  But after a quick swoon in 2013, municipal bond prices have been rising and have remained quite firm (low volatility) as they have made their way back towards the highs of 2012.

Low volatility and rising prices…in this market!?  This is certainly a recipe for those not familiar with municipal bonds to get acquainted.  Municipals appear to be a bright spot, not only in the fixed income markets, but in investing in general. (more…)

What? Municipals on Top?!

January 15th, 2016 by Kurt L. Smith

Happy New Year!  Municipal bonds were one of the best performing asset classes for 2015*.  That doesn’t happen often (ever?)!  Municipal bonds didn’t post stellar returns but compared to the sub-par performance of almost every other asset class, municipal bonds came out on top.

Obviously we don’t invest in municipal bonds because we think they will be the top performing asset class each year.  We like the income, particularly tax-free income.  Municipal bonds may not have the sex appeal of other, perhaps higher yielding investments but they also do not have some of the risks.  In this era of low (to no) interest rates we have seen others chasing yields in all kinds of asset classes from master limited partnerships (MLPs) to high yield junk bonds and even in higher dividend stocks.

2015 saw some investments for yield really take it on the chin.  According to The Alerian MLP Index, Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) as an asset class lost about forty percent of their value last year.**  Forty percent is enough to whack off many years of projected income and price fluctuation is but one of the risks associated with MLPs.  Sure the yield (income) investors were hoping to grab is still there…unless the MLP cuts the dividend rate, another risk associated with MLPs.  No doubt MLPs performed well for many years prior to 2015, but then, bam, the trend moves in another direction leaving MLP investors to try and salvage their investment. (more…)

NEWS FEED

The $247 trillion global debt bomb washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-2…