The municipal market was mostly unchanged Friday, though with a firmer tone, amid fairly light secondary trading activity.
“We’ve had a firmer week for the most part, but we’re flat today,” a trader in New York said. “It’s a pretty quiet end to the week. There’s not a lot trading, and not a lot of movement at this juncture.”
A trader in San Francisco said that the muni market experienced a good week, despite finishing quietly Friday.
“Treasuries are up for the second day in a row, and it’s quiet in taxable muni-land as well,” a trader in San Francisco said. “I would hope to see some back-up in the Treasury and some buyers to come in [to municipals] when this backs up a little bit.”
The Treasury market showed some gains Friday. The benchmark 10-year note was quoted near the end of the session at 2.93%, after opening at 2.99%. The 30-year bond was quoted near the end of the session at 3.94% after opening at 3.98%. The two-year note was quoted near the end of the session at 0.59% after opening at 0.60%.
The Municipal Market Data triple-A scale yielded 2.62% in 10 years and 3.69% in 20 years Thursday, compared to levels of 2.64% and 3.70% Wednesday. The scale yielded 3.98% in 30 years Thursday, compared to 3.99% Wednesday.
“We are, I would say, typically quiet for a Friday in the summer,” a second New York trader said, “but probably better by about one basis point in spots.”
Friday’s triple-A muni scale in 10 years was at 86.6% of comparable Treasuries, and 30-year munis were at 99.0%, according to MMD, while 30-year tax-exempt triple-A general obligation bonds were at 104.7% of the comparable London Interbank Offered Rate.
In economic data released Friday, consumer prices declined 0.1% in June, the third consecutive monthly decline, as the year-over-year change in prices grew by the smallest amount in eight months.
Core prices, excluding food and energy goods, increased 0.2% with a slight increase in the shelter index.
Economists expected consumer prices to be unchanged for the month and for core prices to increase 0.1%, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.
The University of Michigan’s preliminary July consumer sentiment index reading was 66.5, compared to the final June reading of 76.0.
Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had predicted a 75.0 reading for the index.
In a report last week, Alan Schankel, managing director at Janney Capital Markets, wrote that “shorter maturity yields are firmly in record territory.”
“In the case of 10-year maturities, for example, it’s been more than 50 years since tax-free yields dipped to these levels,” he wrote. “Part of the phenomena derives from minimal interest rates across the board.”
Schankel said the 10-year Treasury yield is also at 50-year lows, except for a dip to 2.13% during the December 2008 liquidity crisis.
“Inflation is nearly nonexistent, and monetary policy emanating from the Fed remains extremely accommodative on the heels of first the Great Recession and more recently the fiscal crisis in Europe,” he said.
Schankel also wrote that front-page stories about the fiscal problems facing state and local issuers had negatively impacted municipal trading levels. They had pushed ratios and spreads to recent wide points, but the pendulum may now be swinging in the other direction.
“Tax-free-to-Treasury ratios, which have been moving higher for most of the year, leveled off and then fell after the July 4 holiday, as strong demand and modest supply combined to push tax-free municipal bonds to outperform Treasuries,” he wrote.
Activity in the new-issue market was light Friday.
Priti Patnaik contributed to this column.