Income Investor Perspectives

Independent municipal bond market insights for advisors

Month: November, 2015

The Secret of Happiness

Gratitude is the secret of happiness.

Each of us enjoys countless blessings, more than we can count or even identify. The opposite of gratitude is the sense of entitlement–that somehow we deserve that which we have not earned.

But we do not earn blessings–they are given to us, and there is no quid pro quo with blessings. Even the fruits of our labors–what we have built or earned–ultimately depend on what we have received from others.

The Thanksgiving Holiday provides a good opportunity to identify some of the blessings that we may have overlooked and to renew our sense of gratitude.

So thank you to all of my family, friends and colleagues. Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.

 

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Post-Thanksgiving Calendar

Typically in December, most markets experience a decline in trading activity as participants deal with the impact of multiple holidays (affecting advisors, clients and trading desks).

This year, investors should be prepared for not only the holiday schedule, but also for potentially increased volatility as lower activity levels could mean exaggerated market reactions to some of the important news events expected in the closing month of the year.

This calendar does not include the usual economic releases, but instead highlights the unusual events for the month.

Week of:

Nov 30

  • 12/1: will there be a default on Puerto Rico muni bonds?
  • 12/2: if there is a December 1 default on any PR munis, be prepared for lots of news headlines today an inbound calls from muni clients

Dec 7

Dec 14

  • 12/15: FOMC meeting day 1
  • 12/16: FOMC meeting day 2, followed by news conference

Dec 21

  • 12/24 Christmas Eve
    • 1:00 ET stocks close early
    • 2:00 ET bonds recommended early close
  • 12/25: Merry Christmas! All markets closed

Dec 28

  • 12/31: New Year’s Eve
    • Stocks open regular hours
    • 2:00 ET: recommended early close for bonds
  • 1/1: Happy New year! All markets closed

 

 

Bond Market Liquidity Update: October Asset Flows = $19.7 billion

Bond market liquidity may be down, but demand is up.

Morningstar reported today (Morningstar Manager Research, U.S. Asset Flows Update. Nov 13, 2015. Based on data through 10/31/15) that net fund flows (active and passive combined) into fixed income funds totaled $19.65 billion in October, for a 1 year total of $82.07 billion.

Apparently, there are many investors not waiting on the Fed to allocate to fixed income. (Trying to time rates to buy and sell at the “optimal”time is impossible.) Advisors and investors should be looking at fixed income based on the portfolio goals–and apparently many are.

In re Bond Market Liquidity

A recent Wall Street Journal article (“A New Mystery Bedevils Fed Data,” WSJ November 10, 2015, by Katy Burne; link provided for subscribers) draws attention to recent data provided by the New York Fed,

Large U.S. banks reported negative corporate-bond inventories for the first time ever by one measure, the latest twist in a market being remade by rising investor demand and declining stockpiles at dealers that buy and sell the debt.

The figures are being closely scrutinized on Wall Street amid concerns that liquidity, reflecting the capacity to buy or sell quickly without moving market prices, has been in decline and could become more challenging as the Federal Reserve prepares for its first interest rate increase since 2006.

Any bond market participant would likely agree that this reflects the current reality of reduced liquidity.

The New York Fed data has been used as a proxy for dealers’ wherewithal to facilitate client bond trades.

“The regulatory environment has caused dealers to change how they trade and position corporate bonds,” said Andrew Brenner, head of international fixed income for broker dealer National Alliance Capital Markets.

Yes–liquidity in the cash bond markets is much different and much less than it has been in the past, and that has been driven (or accelerated) by the regulatory changes. The regulatory changes affecting dealers, however, do not have a direct impact on demand–some of which has shifted from direct ownership in bonds to exposure through ETFs. Because many investors are now accessing the bond markets by using ETFs, when there is a need to adjust a portfolio, if the adjustment is done by using ETFs, the portfolio shift may no longer create trading flows through the books of over the counter bond dealers.

As a result, the liquidity experienced by an investor who has exposure through bonds and ETFs may not be as constrained as would appear from the Fed data about the bond dealers.

Keep in mind that liquidity in fixed income ETFs arises from demand for the underlying bonds as well as from a broad variety of ETF market participants: the Authorized Participants, equity market traders, speculators and hedgers, as well as other investors using the ETFs as a tool to access the bond market.

At the macro level, this question really needs deeper analysis, looking at a combination of over the counter flows and ETF trading flows, as well as creation / redemption activity.

At the micro level, investors need to be thinking in advance about their future liquidity needs and plan their portfolio implementation in advance–before they add positions. 

For additional comments on liquidity and portfolio implementation, see my earlier article Bonds are not Stocks.

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