MuniLand – From Worst to First

After a relatively poor showing in 2013, the muni market has reversed course and gone from worst to first when compared to other Bank of America Merrill Lynch investment grade indices performance year-to-date. Performance is driven by limited new issuance, moderate mutual fund inflows and higher income tax rates in some states.  When measured against comparable 5 and 10 year maturity U.S. Treasuries, municipal valuations look rich on a 1 and 5 year basis. This has resulted in a shift in allocation in our Blend strategy, selling out of the belly in tax-exempts and buying into comparable maturity Treasuries, to take advantage of the relative out-performance while increasing liquidity for future opportunities without giving up after-tax yield.  The 20 and 30 year segments of the muni curve offer some relative value but the additional yield does not offset the increased interest rate risk, especially at this point in the business and interest rate cycle.  Our thesis remains intact for cheaper muni valuations later this year as additional supply and credit events will likely up-end early strong performance, creating a buying opportunity.