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Muni Fears Overblown: Money Managers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Municipal bond fund managers say that the predictions by Nouriel Roubini are overblown and investors should get into the municipal market while the opportunities are plentiful.

Well-known economist Roubini announced Wednesday that there may be $100 billion of municipal-bond defaults over the next five years. His comments echo analyst Meredith Whitney's claim that there will be an enormous wave of defaults.

"Roubini seems to use more of a doomsday production," said Matt Fabian, managing director of Municipal Market Advisors at The Bloomberg Insurance Portfolio Strategies Conference. "If you are going to make a prediction, be conservative. In terms of defaults, we have seen very few in the market and these have been smaller transactions."

Terry Goode, head of tax-exempt research and municipal fixed income at Wells Capital Management said that it is important, "not to paint the muni-market with one large brush."

Goode explained that defaults in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and a default on a bond tied to the Las Vegas monorail system are "special situations" that involved private investors. He added that technical factors caused the municipal selloff and fear.

"All this headline risk of budgets does not contribute to wide spread defaults or contagion affect," said Goode. "Defaults peaked in 2008 peaked in 2009, and will be down in 2010. You are going to see some pressure, but we do not see a wide spread defaults."

Joe Darcy, head of the municipalities sector of Hartford Investment Management (HIG) agreed that the credit stresses on the municipal markets right now are normal.

"The reality is that it is the nature of the asset class," said Darcy. "The risk inherent in that stress is manageable for issuers and investors."

Fabian said that $38 trillion of outflows in the municipal bond funds over the past three weeks is mostly due to credit fears and interest rates fears.

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