With the 2015 fund family closed, iShares rolls out ones for 2021 and 2022, with the iShares iBonds Dec 2021 AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (IBMJ) and the iShares iBonds Dec 2022 AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (IBMK).
After four and a half years since inception, the iShares 2014 S&P AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:MUAC) has suspended trading in accordance with its prospectus maturity date.
The fund had hovered just above $51 for the last 2 years of trading and returned less than 1% since inception.
Much like MUAC, the iBonds Sep 2020 AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:IBMI) will track an index of investment-grade U.S. municipal bonds maturing after May 31 and before September 2, 2020; the fund began trading this morning.
U.S. municipal bond funds had some of the biggest outflows since January, after investors pulled out $790M in the week ended July 9. $691M of the outflows was in the high-yield sector, being withdrawn due to default concerns of Puerto Rican debt.
Adding to the worries is Puerto Rico's newest law which allows for public corporations to restructure their debt. The new law pushed ratings agencies last week to downgrade the commonwealth's bonds even lower within junk territory.
Barclays High Yield Municipal Bond Index, up more than 9.5% in mid-June, was up less than 5.5% this past Wednesday.
Acknowledging recent heavier municipal issuance of late has been met by solid demand, Citi nevertheless sees "significant reasons for concern," notably anemic muni bond fund flows. With issuance continuing on the heavy side, the team wonders about the capacity of the market to hold unless fund flows rebound. Toss in possibly rising Treasury yields and the effect could be magnified.
"We are not, however, suggesting that a very sharp selloff is likely," says Citi noting a huge amount of cash on the sidelines waiting to buy on any significant rebound in yields.
Issuers have scheduled $11.7B of long-term sales over the next month - the busiest pace in three months - and it's a good thing as investors are about to get the most cash ($104B) in two years from June through August from debt payments, according to JPMorgan's Peter DeGroot.
The funds received will exceed issuance by about $23B over those months, according to DeGroot, helping to extend munis' best first half rally since 2009.
Municipal-bond prices have soared so far in 2014, compared to the same time one year ago. 2013 was the markets worst year in almost two decades, after registering losses nationwide - ranging from Detroit's municipal bankruptcy-protection filing to pension costs in Illinois.
The revival of the $3.7T municipal-bond market comes as bond buyers attempt to find higher investment returns amid dropping U.S. interest rates.
Investors have also poured $3.1B into municipal-bond mutual funds this year, compared with $2.9Bn over the same period in 2013.
Municipal bonds have returned 5.8% in 2014, reflecting interest payments and price appreciation.
Yields on municipal debt fell to 2.3% this past Wednesday, which was their lowest in almost a year. Yields fall when prices rise.
2013 produced the slowest annual rate of municipal debt growth in 20 years, says Moody's, which expects the trend to continue this year. The trend "reflects a new conservative attitude toward debt among the states," says analyst Kimberly Lyons.
The slow pace of borrowing led to a decline in net-tax support debt (NTSD) per capita to $1,054 from $1,074 in 2012.
In other news, municipal bond funds posted their third straight week of big inflows, adding $664M in the week ended on Wednesday (previous weeks saw $616M and $943M of inflows).
“A lot of the opportunities have been washed away in the last month and a half,” says BNY Mellon fixed income director John Flahive. “There really isn’t much out there.”
The muni market is ahead 6.2% YTD, its strongest start since 2009, and benchmark 10-year muni yields have dipped to 2.29%. At work is the general rally in fixed income coupled with a decline in issuance.
The fund has about $961M in assets vs. an original target size of $1B, and has beaten 83% of peers over the past five years.
Noting the scale and belatedness of the preliminary fiscal 2014 revenue shortfall and the state's likely use of one-time fixes to paper it over, Fitch downgrades New Jersey's $2.4B in outstanding GO debt to A+ from AA-. The rating also affects about $32B in municipal debt linked to the state's outstanding GO debt.
Detroit has filed the latest version of its debt-reduction proposal after it forged a deal with representatives of tens of thousands of retired city workers.
Detroit has agreed to ease healthcare and pension cuts, although retirees will still only receive 10-13% of what they would have originally been given for healthcare.
The deal "puts the city that much closer to emerging from bankruptcy solvent, more credit worthy and better able to provide basic services to its nearly 700,000 residents," said Emergency Manager Kevin Orr.
The agreement adds to those that Detroit has formulated with several banks, bond insurers and other retiree groups, boosting the chances of the city receiving approval from its creditors for its restructuring plan. However, some bond insurers and unions still haven't come to an agreement with Detroit.
A vote on the debt restructure could start next month.
A two-week streak of outflows is broken as investors put a net $273M into municipal bond funds and ETFs last week, according to Lipper data. The funds have seen inflows for 7 of the past 9 weeks, but they've been small and choppy, averaging just $21.9M over the last month.
RBC's Chris Mauro notes the typical late March/early April seasonal tax-time weakness is passing, and this week's inflows - like previous - have been nearly entirely concentrated in high-yield muni funds, with recorded their 14th consecutive week of net gains in assets.
Citing a "sizable structural imbalance" within the budget, S&P cuts the rating on New Jersey's general obligation debt to A+ from AA-. Acknowledging an improving economy in the state, S&P says it won't be enough to offset potential unfunded liabilities.
"By using bullish assumptions about revenue growth and one-time measures to close budget gaps, the state defers making long-term structural changes to better align revenues and expenditures, defers budgetary pressures to future years' budgets and increases its exposure to an eventual economic downturn."
The agreement with Assured Guaranty (AGO +2.2%), Ambac (AMBC +1.2%), and National Public Finance (MBI +1.8%) is an important one as - in what would have been a precedent-setting move - Detroit had asked a court to treat its general-obligation debt as unsecured and allow a recovery of just a few cents on the dollar, while treating debt owed to pensions
Instead, $287.5M of $388M of debt in question will be reinstated at par, and the remaining paper will be assigned to establishing an income stabilization fund for the city's "most vulnerable retirees."
Illinois' House and Senate have approved a bill that would increase employee contributions to two Chicago city pension systems and which will cut future cost-of-living increases for retirees.
The legislation will now go to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for his signature.
The bill is an attempt to deal with a pension system that has a shortfall of around $20B, with some funds on course to run out of money withing a decade.
However, attempts to include tax increases to fund the pension systems were taken out the final legislation. In addition, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs to deal with an increase of over $600M in annual contributions to the city's police and fire pension funds that's due to begin next year.
An agreement between Detroit and bond insurers Assured Guaranty (AGO), Ambac (AMBC), and National Public Finance Guaranty (MBI) would be a critical step as the city winds its way through Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Detroit emergency manager Kevin Orr has deemed about $410M of previously sacrosanct general-obligation debt as unsecured, a decision bond insurers - who would be on the hook for millions if the paper sees just the 15% recovery Orr has proposed - are howling about.
"Time is growing shorter," said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in an interview today. "A lot of work is going on in the mediation process, with great urgency ... [the] best case" is for parties to reach a settlement. A deal, says the Journal, could be struck as early as tomorrow.