This column was originally published on RealMoney. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
readers are an Internet-savvy group, and most of you do your own research. After
last week's column encouraging fixed-income investors to consider municipal bonds for their relatively attractive after-tax yields, I got a few requests for information. So here's a short list of some online resources I use to research munis.
The Bond Market Association's
Web site is a good first stop. This is the trade association for the fixed-income business, and it has a lot of basic information about investing in munis and fixed income generally.
If you want to get a handle on relatively current prices and yields for more regularly traded bonds, go directly to the
Investing in Bonds page and look under bond prices for municipal bonds. There's a database of the previous day's trades that were reported to the MSRB, the regulator for municipal brokers and dealers. You can sort by state, credit rating, coupon and more parameters to find the kind of bond you are interested in. If you have a bond already, you can type in the CUSIP number and see if a recent quote is available.
In addition, a part of the Bond Market's site called "gateway to related links" has Web sites for all kinds of broker sites, news services and electronic data services. There, under "municipal bonds," is a long list of sources you can peruse. Many of the sites require you to register, but that shouldn't scare you off. (Brokerage firms are required to know who you are if they are sharing information about securities.) If you think you want to see something special, many of the subscription-only sites frequently have short trial periods.
For credit rating information, I like the
Standard & Poor's site. It gives you more free information than
Moody's, and it seems easier to use. (This is a review of its Web site, not its rating ability.)
Some issuers also have great sites. The
California Treasurer's site lets you download prospectuses for state issues and get copies of state budgets and investor presentations.
New York's State Comptroller has less information on its Web site, but you can look at the forward calendar for New York State and New York City issuers
here. That's a list of expected bond issues; it's not complete, but it's a start. Try your state or city's Web site and see if the controller or treasurer has information online.
If you want information about a particular state or city, don't overlook a simple Google search. When I was doing research for my California deficit bond columns, that helped me find articles in local California papers that covered aspects of the matter better than the general financial press. The local papers wouldn't know a bond covenant from the Ten Commandments, but they can handicap a school board election like nobody else.
Darcy Bradbury is a partner in a private investment firm in New York City and has had a 25-year career in finance and government. At time of publication, neither Bradbury nor her firm held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Bradbury cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she welcomes your feedback at