This Day On The Street
Continue to site
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Tax-Free Bonds Offer Tempting Yields

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As Washington struggled to sidestep the fiscal cliff last year, municipal funds sank. During December, the average intermediate tax-free fund lost 1.2%, according to Morningstar. Investors worried that Congress would undo some of the advantages of municipals. But since tax legislation passed on Jan. 1, the funds have gained back much lost ground.

The markets cheered the legislation because it did nothing to change the tax-exempt status of municipals. In addition, Congress raised the top tax bracket from 35.0% to 39.6%. That may be painful for high income earners, but it makes the tax exemption of municipal bonds more valuable.

To appreciate the impact of the tax rise, consider that the average intermediate-term municipal fund delivers a tax-free yield of 2.5%. In 2012, that yield was the equivalent of a taxable bond with a yield of 3.8% for investors in the top tax bracket. With top rates higher this year, the equivalent taxable yield has jumped to 4.1% -- a fat payout at a time when money-market funds yield almost nothing. "Demand for municipals has been strong because the yields are compelling," says Peter Hayes, who heads BlackRock's municipal group.

Even after their recent rally, municipal funds could continue climbing this year. Prices are still a bit depressed because of the uncertainty around the debt-ceiling negotiations, says Duane McAllister, portfolio manager of BMO Intermediate Tax-Free (MITFX). Some investors worry that a final deal could limit tax advantages for high-income investors.

McAllister says that under normal circumstances, municipals should yield about the same or less than comparable U.S. Treasuries. But at the moment, 5-year AAA-rated municipals yield 0.87%, while 5-year Treasuries yield 0.78%. Nervous investors are demanding a premium before they will buy tax-free bonds. McAllister says that when Congress finally draws clear rules, prices of municipals could rise, and the yields would fall. "If we get beyond this uncertainty, there is room for municipals to do better," he says.

To take advantage of improving municipal markets, consider a fund with a record of steady performance. A top choice is BMO Intermediate Tax-Free, which returned 6.2% annually during the past five years, outdoing 96% of peers.
1 of 2

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Real Money

More than 30 investing pros with skin in the game give you actionable insight and investment ideas.

Product Features:
  • Access to Jim Cramer's daily blog
  • Intraday commentary and news
  • Real-time trading forums
Only $49.95
14-Days Free
14-Days Free
LUV $44.61 0.00%
AAPL $93.74 0.00%
FB $117.58 0.00%
GOOG $693.01 0.00%
TSLA $240.76 0.00%


Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,773.64 -57.12 -0.32%
S&P 500 2,065.30 -10.51 -0.51%
NASDAQ 4,775.3580 -29.9330 -0.62%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs