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Market View

Chart 1. How a Managed Muni Ladder Could Adjust to Rising Interest Rates
Projected yields and annual income based on hypothetical ladders of general obligation ‘AA’ rated municipal securities as of the indicated dates

Source: Lord Abbett and Bloomberg. Bond yield data based on maturity-specific components of the Bloomberg Daily Generic OAS Yield Curve on ‘AA’-Rated General Obligation Municipal Bonds, as of September 9, 2014.
The charts presented do not represent the results that any particular investor actually attained. The information presented is based, in part, on hypothetical assumptions. No representation or warranty is made as to the reasonableness of the assumptions made or that all the assumptions used in achieving the results have been stated or fully considered.  The hypothetical results have many inherent limitations and no representation is made that any account will or is likely to profit similar to those shown in the chart. Actual performance results may differ substantially. Changes in the scenario assumptions may have a material impact on the hypothetical results presented.
All returns and yields are gross of fees and taxes. As the first year bond matures or rolls down outside the specified ladder range and needs to be sold, additional bonds are purchased on the furthest rung of the ladder using those proceeds. It is assumed that bonds are purchased at par where the coupon equals the yield. "Income" refers to coupon income.
Forecasts and projections are based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice. Projections should not be considered a guarantee.
For illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the performance of any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment.  An investor may not experience similar results.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The income derived from municipal securities may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Federal, state and local taxes may apply. The value of an investment in fixed-income securities will change as interest rates fluctuate and in response to market movements. As interest rates fall, the prices of debt securities tend to rise. As rates rise, prices tend to fall.

 

One of the simplest tools for muni investors to use in order to position their portfolios for a period of rising interest rates might be the managed muni “ladder.” The fundamental idea of a ladder is that the investor buys a bond at each maturity within a predetermined range (typically starting with a one-year muni, and then adding other maturities at one-year intervals) and then holds each to maturity. These bonds are the “rungs” of the ladder. Chart 1 uses one popular ladder model, which contains 10 bonds in one-year maturity intervals. One year after the ladder is constructed the one-year bond matures, while the maturity of each of the other bonds has decreased by one year. To keep the ladder intact, a new 10-year bond is purchased by the investor to replace the bond that matured. This keeps the 10-bond sequence of one- to-10-year maturities intact. 

The ladder approach has three fundamental benefits. Two are widely acknowledged, while the third, lesser-known aspect may actually be the most attractive feature in the current market. The first is that they mitigate price risk, because ladders hold bonds to maturity—thus the investor pays par value for the bond, and receives the same value when it matures. Second, the ladder provides a simplified approach to income: each year, the investor receives the coupon from each bond to either reinvest or take as income. (As illustrated in Chart 1, the ladder as initially constructed provides $3,766 of income in the first year based on a $250,000 par value of bonds.)

The third benefit may come as a surprise to some investors, but a managed ladder could provide a solid defense against rising interest rates. As mentioned earlier, when a bond matures in the ladder, the investor buys a new one at the longest maturity of the ladder; for the ladder depicted in Chart 1, it would be 10 years. This new bond will have a yield based on current interest rates in the market. So, as interest rates rise and muni bond yields go up, the new bond that the investor purchases each year will have a higher yield. For example, let’s say that interest rates rise over the next five years at a rate of 50 basis points (bps) per year, bringing the total increase to 250 bps, or 2.5%. If that happened, each year a new bond would be purchased with a yield 50 bps higher than the bond that preceded it. 

The result is that the income stream from would rise each year as the muni ladder makes adjustments for rising interest rates. In our illustration, after five years, the muni ladder is generating more than double the income it was in the first year. [Market forecasts and projections, however, are based on current market conditions and, thus, are subject to change without notice.]

How then does one build a muni ladder? A few years ago, the answer would have been simple: buy an ‘AAA’ rated muni bond at each maturity. But that task is not as easy these days because there are fewer ‘AAA’ rated bonds in the market and there is a lower inventory of muni bonds available from dealers. Given these difficulties, an investor may wish instead to consider a professionally managed muni ladder. A professional manager could provide three key benefits:

  1. Professional monitoring and security selection—Note that the ladder in Chart 1 draws on ‘AA’ rated bonds, given the shrinking availability of ‘AAA’ rated munis in the current market. With the reduced supply of insured bonds, continuous monitoring and assessment of the bonds in the ladder becomes imperative. A professional manager can provide those services and then use research capabilities to select appropriate replacements for maturing issues.
  2. Better inventory access—A professional manager has relationships with hundreds of muni bond dealers across the country, giving the manager access to bonds that often times aren’t readily available to all investors
  3. Better purchasing power—A professional manager also buys bonds in bulk, often purchasing directly from the issuer instead of on the secondary market as would most investors. As a result, a manager can purchase bonds at wholesale prices instead of individual retail prices.

 

MARKET VIEW PDFS


  Market View
  U.S. Market Monitor

MANAGED MUNICIPAL LADDERS
 

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