WASHINGTON - The cost of protection against muni credit defaults has dramatically increased and is more than double its six-month average. But market participants say the jump may be more of a sign that speculators are trying to profit from issuers' budget troubles than an indication of the health of the tax-exempt bond market.

The municipal credit default swap market is estimated to be about $250 billion, a mere sliver of the $58 trillion corporate CDS market.

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