Municipal bond traders allowed Illinois’ competitive auction to steal their attention Tuesday as they noted the market was very quiet outside that big deal.
Outside the Illinois deal, traders said the market was waiting for the big wave of issues to price Wednesday and were still digesting news out of Stockton that came late Monday afternoon.
Illinois auctioned $800 million of general obligation bonds in two pricings, rated A2 by Moody’s Investors Service, A-minus by Standard & Poor’s, and A by Fitch Ratings.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch won the bid for $450 million of tax-exempts. Credits maturing between 2025 and 2034 were insured by Assured Guaranty Municipal and were rated A2 by Moody’s and AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s.
Yields ranged from 0.88% with a 2% coupon in 2014 to 4.44% with a 5% coupon in 2038. The bonds are callable at par in 2023.
“The deal priced well,” a Markit analyst said, adding 10-year Illinois GOs were evaluated at 150 basis points above Markit’s internal triple-A benchmark and the deal came in at 141 basis points over.
B of A Merrill also won the bid for $350 million of taxable GOs. The bonds were priced at par with coupons ranging from 1.1% in 2014 to 5.52% in 2038.
“It looks like it was priced right,” a Chicago trader said. “My guess is they wouldn’t have gone to market if they didn’t see decent demand.”
“While we are gratified by the attractive low all-in costs, the state continues to pay a significant penalty for its failure to address the shortfall in its pensions,” said John Sinsheimer, the director of capital markets for Illinois in a statement. “Governor [Pat] Quinn has warned the general assembly on many occasions that investors have told us we need to rein in our pension costs and that until we do, they would command a higher price for Illinois’ bonds. Today’s rate is a direct result of the general assembly’s failure so far to pass a pension reform bill.”
Outside Illinois, the market was quiet. “The rest of the market is hitting the snooze button,” the Chicago trader said. He said there are still some spring vacations this week so the market has no continuity.
“It’s close to tax time and people are scrambling,” he said. Still, while March was a tough time for the muni market, April should bode better. “There are too many bonds in March and not enough place to put them. Now it needs to be worked through. April is a low issuance month and is able to absorb what is left over from March. And that’s the case again this year.”
Others agreed that outside the primary, the market was quiet. “The secondary is quiet,” a second Chicago trader said.
In the rest of the primary Tuesday, other mid-sized deals were priced. Barclays priced and repriced $380.8 million of Golden State Tobacco Securitization Corp. enhanced tobacco settlement asset-backed bonds, rated A2 by Moody’s, A-minus by Standard & Poor’s, and BBB-plus by Fitch.
Yields ranged from 1.09% with 3% and 5% coupons in a split 2017 maturity to 4% coupon priced at par and 3.70% with a 5% coupon in a split 2030 maturity. Yields were lowered as much as eight basis points from preliminary pricing. The bonds are callable at par in 2023.
In the secondary market, trades compiled by data provider Markit showed a mix of strengthening and weakening.
Yields on Graham, Texas, Independent School District 4s of 2028 dropped five basis points to 2.96% and Massachusetts School Building Authority 5s of 2030 fell four basis points to 2.86%.
Yields on New York’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority 5s of 2029 slide two basis points to 2.88% and Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority 5s of 2020 dropped one basis point to 1.44%.
Still, other trades were weaker. Yields on California 4.5s of 2030 and Washington 3s of 2031 increased one basis point each to 2.85% and 3.62%, respectively. Yields on Houston Community College System 5s of 2034 rose one basis point to 3.10%.
In similar bonds news, traders said Stockton was still taking some attention after Monday’s ruling that the city is eligible to file for Chapter 9.
But most traders said Stockton wouldn’t affect the rest of the market. “They are not going to set a trend in the general market,” the first Chicago trader said. “That situation is unique and there will probably be lawsuits to stop that.”
According to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, odd-lot trades showed the bonds were weaker Tuesday.
A dealer sold to a customer Stockton Wastewater System Certificates of Participation 5s of 2023 at 4.91%, one basis point higher than where they were sold Thursday. They were still higher than the initial offering price in 1998.
A dealer bought from a customer Stockton Redevelopment Agency 5s of 2036 at 6.19%, 42 basis points higher than where the bonds were bought last Tuesday. Prices are down significantly from where the bonds were sold above par in 2004.
On Tuesday, municipal bond scales ended steady to one basis point weaker after finishing two basis points stronger Monday.
Yields on the Municipal Market Data triple-A GO scale ended steady across the curve. The 10-year yield closed flat at 1.89% for the second session while the 30-year yield held steady at 3.09% for the fourth session. The two-year finished flat at 0.31% for the 30th consecutive session.
Yields on the Municipal Market Advisors 5% coupon triple-A benchmark scale ended steady to one basis point weaker. The 10-year and 30-year yields increased one basis point each to 1.95% and 3.19%, respectively. The two-year held at 0.33% for the 25th session.
Treasuries were weaker Tuesday, reversing Monday’s gains and then some. The benchmark 10-year yield and the 30-year yield jumped three basis points to 1.87% and 3.11%, respectively. The two-year yield rose one basis point to 0.25%.