The tax-exempt market picked up speed Thursday afternoon as the majority of the week's largest deals priced in the primary and the European Central Bank's new bond buying program spurred global fixed income markets.

Stocks soared and Treasuries took a hit, but munis appeared to keep their composure. "I'm not noticing any change in munis one way or the other, at least with the stuff I'm seeing," a New Jersey trader said.

But, the market was busier, especially compared to earlier in the week. "Inventory is slightly larger now. Early in the week it was beyond quiet," the trader added.

In the primary market, the biggest deals of the week priced. Ramirez & Co. held preliminary pricing for $271 million of Chicago second-lien wastewater transmission revenue project bonds, rated Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service, A-plus by Standard & Poor's and AA by Fitch Ratings.

Yields ranged from 0.56% with a 3% coupon in 2014 to 4.05% with a 4% coupon and 3.64% with a 5% coupon in a split 2042 maturity. The bonds are callable at par in 2022.

Barclays priced $181.3 million of Illinois Finance Authority revenue bonds for the OSF Healthcare System. The bonds are rated A3 by Moody's and A by Standard & Poor's and Fitch. Pricing details were not available by press time.

Wells Fargo Securities sold $175 million of San Antonio Water System revenue and refunding bonds, rated Aa1 by Moody's, AA by Standard & Poor's, and AA-plus by Fitch. Prices were not immediately available.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch sold Tampa, Fla., refunding and capital improvement cigarette tax allocation bonds for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center Project, rated A1 by Moody's and A-plus by Standard & Poor's.

Yields ranged from 0.70% with a 2% coupon in 2013 to 3.98% with a 4% coupon in 2033. The bonds are callable at par in 2022.

In the competitive market, Raymond James | Morgan Keegan won the bid for $96.2 million of Orange County, Fla., sales tax revenue refunding bonds, rated Aa2 by Moody's, AA by Standard & Poor's and AA-plus by Fitch.

The bonds had coupons ranging from 2% in 2014 to 5% in 2024. The bonds were not formally re-offered.

On Wednesday, the 10-year Municipal Market Data yield closed steady at 1.73% while the 30-year yield finished flat for the fourth session at 2.89% and the two-year closed at 0.29% for the 29th consecutive session.

Treasuries were much weaker Thursday after the European Central Bank announced a new bond buying program. ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank would buy one- to three-year bonds of distressed countries in the secondary market - called outright monetary transactions.

The bond buying program prompted many reactions. Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Capital Markets said the announcement overall fell short of its potential to support the Eurozone and reinforced the perception of the ECB as doing as little as possible and hoping it works.

"The ECB's OMT program provides a small measure of additional liquidity support to countries that request and receive a bailout," LeBas wrote. "It is not, however, designed to rescue EU sovereigns, but rather to ensure that the deterioration of sovereign credit quality doesn't result in a sharp drop in economic activity or deflation. Don't depend on the OMT as a cure-all for what ails continental Europe."

Other economists agreed that the OMT program may not save Europe. "The ECB did almost exactly what was expected, and in this case that's a positive," wrote Benjamin Reitzes, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. "The details of the new OMT were consistent with the leaks over the past few days, with the easing of the collateral framework a little extra boost for European banks. Today's announcement should help contain the crisis, but the weak economic outlook looms, the ECB will need to ease policy further in the months ahead."

Subsequently, the benchmark 10-year yield jumped eight basis points to 1.67% while the 30-year yield spiked nine basis points to 2.79%. The two-year yield rose two basis points to 0.27%.

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