UBS Sees Muni-Bond Market Facing Biggest Storm in Modern History
By Amanda Albright and Danielle Moran
May 14, 2020, 9:30 AM EDT
States still seen as a haven, despite vast budget gaps
But once-booming high-yield niche may see ‘surge of defaults’
Caution tape block off a lakefront bike path in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, April 3, 2020. The world's workers are reeling from the initial shock of the coronavirus recession, with job losses and welfare claims around the globe already running into the millions this week.
Caution tape block off a lakefront bike path in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, April 3, 2020. The world's workers are reeling from the initial shock of the coronavirus recession, with job losses and welfare claims around the globe already running into the millions this week. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg
To the analysts at UBS Global Wealth Management, the $3.9 trillion municipal-bond market is heading into the biggest financial storm anyone has ever seen.
dropped about 9% this year, on track for their worst yearly loss since 2008, according to Bloomberg Barclays indexes.
High-yield munis have yet to rebound as much as safer assets
UBS had warned clients about the risks of investing in high-yield before the sell-off began in March and said that such debt issued for student housing projects, shopping malls and recycling factories may not recover anytime soon.
“The unprecedented monetary and fiscal support for the economy will allow most municipal bond issuers to recover, but the high yield sector is particularly exposed,” UBS said in the report.
UBS said higher education and health-care bonds pose particularly high risks. For private colleges, the economic crisis may exacerbate long-standing concerns around enrollment declines and affordability, causing default risk to rise “appreciably,” the firm said.
“We expect the severity of the current recession to result in a surge of defaults among high-yield bonds,” they wrote. “There are simply too many bonds secured by nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, and economic development projects to reach a more benign conclusion.”
To read more: Gimme-Tax-Shelter Mentality Ignores Threatening Credit Storm