The municipal market was mostly unchanged with a slightly firmer tone Wednesday as the Utah State Board of Regents came to market with $389.4 million of tax-exempt debt.
“We’re definitively in holiday mode now,” a trader in Los Angeles said. “There’s just not a whole lot going on. There is some trading going on, it’s not completely dead in the secondary, but it’s pretty light.”
He said there wasn’t enough activity to describe the market as “better,” despite some scattered firmness.
In the new-issue market Wednesday, RBC Capital Markets priced $389.4 million of student loan revenue bonds for the Utah Regents in two series.
Bonds from the $25.3 million Series EE-1, which are subject to the alternative minimum tax, mature in 2011 and 2012, yielding 1.01% and 1.50%, each with a 3% coupon. These bonds are not callable.
Bonds from the $364.1 million Series EE-2, which are not subject to the AMT, mature from 2013 through 2024 and in 2026, 2027, and 2030. Yields range from 1.46% with a 4% coupon in 2013 to 5.08% with a 5% coupon in 2030. The bonds are callable at par in 2020.
The credit is rated triple-A by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s.
The Municipal Market Data triple-A 10-year scale declined one basis point Wednesday to 3.14%, the 20-year scale was unchanged at 4.37%, and the scale for 30-year debt held at 4.66%.
Wednesday’s triple-A muni scale in 10 years was at 93.7% of comparable Treasuries and 30-year munis were at 104.7%, according to MMD. Meanwhile, 30-year tax-exempt triple-A general obligation bonds were at 112.0% of the comparable London Interbank Offered Rate.
The Treasury market showed losses Wednesday. The benchmark 10-year note was quoted near the end of the session at 3.35% after opening at 3.30%. The 30-year bond was quoted near the end of the session at 4.44% after opening at 4.42%. The two-year note was quoted near the end of the session at 0.64% after opening at 0.61%.
“We’re mostly flat at the moment,” a trader in New York said. “There are some bits and pieces trading, and maybe a slightly firmer tone, but I’d just call it flat.”
Trades reported by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board showed little movement Wednesday. Bonds from an interdealer trade of insured San Diego Unified School District 4.75s of 2026 were at 5.10%, unchanged from where they were sold Tuesday. Bonds from an interdealer trade of taxable California BAB 7.7s of 2030 were at 7.41%, even with where they traded Tuesday.
A dealer sold to a customer taxable Illinois BAB 5.1s of 2033 at 7.45%, even with where they traded Tuesday. A dealer sold to a customer insured Connecticut 4.2s of 2025 at 4.29%, unchanged from where they sold Tuesday.
Bonds from an interdealer trade of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority 5s of 2031 yielded 5.10%, even with where they were sold Tuesday. Bonds from an interdealer trade of Wisconsin 5s of 2024 yielded 3.68%, down one basis point from Tuesday.
Bonds from an interdealer trade of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 5s of 2039 yielded 5.07%, one basis point lower than where they traded Tuesday. Bonds from an interdealer trade of Washington 5s of 2023 were unchanged with a yield of 3.76%.
A dealer bought from a customer Alaska Housing Finance Corp. 5.35s of 2039 at 5.47%, even with where they were sold Tuesday. Bonds from an interdealer trade of Massachusetts 4.5s of 2038 were unchanged at a yield of 5.11%.
Elsewhere in Wednesday’s light new-issue market, Bedford, N.Y., competitively sold $5.9 million of bond anticipation notes to Jefferies & Co. with a net interest cost of 0.48%.
The Bans mature in June 2011 with a 1.5% coupon and were not formally re-offered.
In economic data released Wednesday, the U.S. economy expanded more slowly than economists expected in the third quarter, when it grew at an annual rate of 2.6% according to the third and final estimate.
The estimate was revised upward from a prior 2.4% growth rate due to a stronger contribution from inventories. Economists forecast a 2.8% pace.
The annualized expansion rate of the U.S. economy was 1.7% in the second quarter and 3.7% in the first quarter.
The rate of expansion for core personal consumption expenditures, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, was revised downward to a record low of 0.5% from the 0.8% rate previously reported.
The final third-quarter growth rate was the lowest reading for core PCE since quarterly records began in 1959.
Economists expected core PCE to increase 0.8%. The third-quarter expansion rate for core personal consumption expenditures compares with annualized growth paces of 1.0% for the second quarter of this year and 0.6% for the fourth quarter of 2008, when the recession prompted a gross domestic product to shrink at a 6.8% rate. The 18-month recession began in December 2007.
“GDP growth looks as though it will be reasonably well maintained,” said Michael Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Capital Markets. “The economy seems on track to grow 2.5% to 3.0% in the final three months of the year.”
Home resales rose more slowly than economists expected in November, expanding 5.6% to a seasonally adjusted 4.68 million rate.
Economists expected 4.71 million sales for the month, according to the median estimate for existing home sales. October sales were 4.43 million.