Here’s why muni-bond demand could get a lift from bank legislation

Author: , Post Date: March 9, 2018

Excerpts below:

As municipal bondholders continue their struggle to make sense of last year’s tax legislation, Congress is set to knock down one argument against participating in the $3.8 trillion market.

Investors are expecting the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill that would include municipal debt in the coveted category of high-quality liquid assets as part of a bid to roll back some elements of the Dodd-Frank law put in place after the financial crisis. The proposed legislation would stoke appetite for municipal bonds among banks, steadying a market still reckoning with the recent tax cuts.

“It takes one of leg of the argument against the muni market as it goes through a shake-up,” said John Mousseau, director of fixed-income strategy at Cumberland Advisors.

“Why wouldn’t you want better credit collateral than you’re getting with existing legislation on corporation debt,” said Mousseau.

Moreover, municipal debt could hold good value for banks with extra cash. The yield difference between municipal bonds and comparable Treasurys have widened, with the tax-free yield on a 10-year municipal bond slipping to around 85% of the taxable yield on a 10-year Treasury TMUBMUSD10Y, +1.32%   for most of this year, well below the 95% seen in early 2017. A lower ratio implies munis are cheaper relative to Treasurys.

Though the revamped bank legislation should boost their investment in municipal paper, its unlikely to return Wall Street to their previous role as the linchpin of the market.

Nonetheless, Mousseau says the bill, if passed, is an under-appreciated step that could prove a boon to smaller financial institutions and commercial banks that have few avenues for long-term investments.

Read the full story here: MarketWatch

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