As the foliage turned crimson last fall, institutional investors were dropping out of muni deals like so many dead leaves spiraling to the earth.

"Retail" was the word as individual investors became the dominant buyers for downsized bond issues. Now, some major New York issuers say institutional investors have started to return, but they are fewer in number than before the financial meltdown of 2008 and they are being more cautious about what they buy.

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