July 5, 2018 By Matthew P. Bernardi “[Avoid] likewise the accumulation of debt”. – George Washington Since the financial crisis, municipal bonded debt outstanding has increased at a snail’s pace of 0.51% per year. With corporate debt growing at an …
Warren Buffett’s annual letter is one of the best insights into the mind of perhaps the greatest stock picker in history. His letters offer a great window into how he built a $500 billion conglomerate of businesses from a mere, mid-size textile manufacturing company. Today, Berkshire Hathaway intersects with our lives in myriad ways from auto insurance to underpants to home brokerage services. The man, however, is not without his biases as it pertains to financial markets and asset allocation, including a distaste for active stock management, investment bankers, and bonds.
The “Magic Square of 34” appears in the upper right side of Albrecht Durer’s 1514 copper plated masterpiece, “Melancholia.” The allegorical work is the subject of many interpretations. One interpretation asserts the scene depicts the age of Humanism, both its creative successes and unsolved frustrations.
Tax reform largely left the municipal bond market intact, though a bit squeezed, and it remains an attractive space for individual investors. We are satisfied with the outcome and are also grateful as American citizens and taxpayers that Congress largely left the market unhindered in its ability to fund the bulk (~75%) of our nation’s infrastructure.
The tragic storms over the past months highlight the concept of “event risk” investors face while investing in the municipal bond market. Event risk is a term more closely associated with the stock or corporate bond markets, where an underlying credit can be significantly impacted on a short term basis by an unforeseen event. Substantial credit deterioration in the municipal market traditionally resembles a slow moving train wreck (e.g. Detroit, Puerto Rico, Hartford). That said, events like Irma, Harvey, and Maria can create massive shocks to the system, potentially impairing fiscal balances enough to create distressed credits from an otherwise healthy or stable state. What can we learn from such events and their impact on the municipal market? Also, how does sound credit analysis account for such risk?
As of this writing, the State of Illinois began its fiscal year (July 1) without a budget for an unprecedented third year in a row. Sunday evening the Illinois House of Representatives approved a $36 billion spending plan that increases personal income taxes to 4.95% from the current 3.75% level and the corporate levy to 7% from 5.25%. If the Senate, which approved a tax hike last month, concurs on the House bill it will be presented to the governor for consideration. He has stated he will veto both the House and Senate spending bills as currently written.
The post-crisis monetary policy reaction pushed interest rate markets into unchartered waters of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP). We have all become somewhat deadened to this reality over the last handful of years as monetary policy has led to heightened market valuations, paired with one of the longest periods of economic expansion (93 months) in our economic history.
This chart demonstrates the volatility of the 10 year U. S. treasury bond since the beginning of 2016. This volatility causes anxiety for many and understandably leads to several questions: Will long term bond yields increase as the Federal Reserve Bank increases its overnight lending bank rate? Should one invest in bonds now or wait until rates rise further? What is a proper equity/bond asset allocation given this volatility? These are pertinent questions and are often posed to our Investment Specialists and Portfolio Managers during the course of a week
By Jeffrey D. Irish We wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2017. We thank our many clients and friends for your continued confidence and belief in the Bernardi team, our processes and the way we approach investing in today’s volatile bond market. …
By Matthew P. Bernardi Municipalities have done an excellent job since the financial crisis in stabilizing their finances and have pulled a number of levers to reduce fixed costs. Today’s low growth environment calls for prudent management and the aver …