New money continued to flow into municipal bond ETFs in August with year-to-date net flows now eclipsing the inflows for all of 2014 and 2015.
As shown below, even though they represent only 4% of the combined assets, muni bond ETFs are gaining market share from mutual funds by capturing 10% of the combined net flows.
Municipal Bond Fund Flows
|Total Muni Flows||Municipal Bond Mutual Funds||Mutual Funds/ Total||Municipal ETFs||ETF/ Total|
|Number of Funds||575||33|
Flows reported in millions of dollars. Assets in billions of dollars. Source: Investment Company Institute and FactSet Research Systems, Inc. Muni Bond Mutual Fund assets as of 7/31/16. Muni ETF assets as of 8/31/16.
As new money has come into the muni market this year, buyers appear to be taking a balanced approach to their choice of muni ETFs.
Thus the bulk of the money has not gone into the highest-yielding or the most conservative ETFs, but into the ones with a balance of a moderate amount of interest rate risk with a reasonable amount of dividends.
More than 75% of the inflows have gone into ETFs with durations between 4 and 8. (The durations on municipal bond ETFs range from nearly zero to almost 10). Duration is a measure of interest rate sensitivity, and provides an estimate of the percentage change in market value for an immediate 1% change in yields. So an ETF with a duration of 5 would be expected to decline in price by 5% if rates instantly moved higher by 1%. To learn more, read Duration As A Guide With Muni ETFs.)
The ETFs highlighted in the table below with durations between 4 and 8 have attracted $3.7 billion in new inflows so far this year—that’s over 75% of the $4.8 billion total. (All data in the table are as of 8/31/16, with the exception of the duration for VanEck Vectors CEF Municipal Income ETF (XMPT), which is as of 6/30/16.)
Higher duration is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just a measure of risk, and is helpful when considered in the context of the overall portfolio. For insight on how to select the right muni bond ETF for you, see my earlier article, How To Pick The Right Muni Bond ETF.
Total returns for the muni market and for muni ETFs have been generally positive for the year. The S&P Dow Jones Municipal Bond Index, which provides a broad benchmark of the market, was up 0.23% in August and is up 4.60% year-to-date.
The strong recent performance of the muni market has been helped at least in part by the heavy amount of municipal bond redemptions in the summer months—a combined total of $101 billion in June, July and August, according to data from Bloomberg.
Patrick Luby is a municipal bond portfolio strategy specialist and the author of www.IncomeInvestorPerspectives.com. He will be a speaker at the Inside ETFs Inside Fixed Income Conference in Newport Beach, California, Nov. 2-3.
At the time of writing, the author held none of the securities referenced. This is not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any of the securities or strategies mentioned. The author does not provide investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. Investors should consult with their own advisor and fully understand their own situation when considering changes to their strategy, tactics or individual investments. Information is based on sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. Additional information is available upon request.