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US Municipals: A tale of two markets and a knight in shining armor

US Municipals: A tale of two markets and a knight in shining armor

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The municipal bond market has seen a nice recovery in investment grade names over the last few weeks. The new issue calendar remains light, with the big coupon reinvestment and maturity months of June and July right around the corner. The few large new issues that have come to market (a USD800 million state of Illinois General Obligation bond and a roughly USD2 billion state of New York Metropolitan Transit Authority issue) have been well oversubscribed. The high yield segment of the market is still lagging, but demand appears to be picking up recently.

Yields on investment grade municipal bonds (as represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index), have recovered to roughly where they stated the year, though they are still above the lows reached prior to the pandemic in early March (Figure 1). However, yields represented by the Barclays Bloomberg Municipal High Yield Index are still well above the levels reached at the beginning of the year and the lows set before the pandemic. Accordingly, the spread, or difference between the two yields, has steadily increased since March. We believe this presents an opportunity to be taken advantage of by active managers. Many names in the high yield or BBB space have been guilty by association – we believe careful credit work can be advantageous and help position portfolios to benefit from this spread going forward.

Figure 1: High Yield Municipal Yields Have Lagged Investment Grade

Source: Bloomberg L.P., data from Dec. 31, 2019 to May 27, 2020. YTW is yield to worst.

A concern on the minds of many market participants is the potential for defaults in the municipal market, which we do not anticipate. To be sure, there will probably be a few defaults that make splashy headlines, but we believe the vast majority of municipal bonds will continue to pay coupons and principal as they come due. What makes us confident in stating this? The federal government has taken decisive action, arriving like a knight in shining armor with financial support (Figure 2). The Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) was established to provide market access for states, large cities and large counties and is almost up and running. The mere establishment of the MLF has provided comfort and stability to the municipal market and we believe it will likely help troubled borrowers the most. This support comes on top of the liquidity that the federal government provided in late March to stabilize the ultra-short segment of the municipal market.

Figure 2: Stimulus Funds (USD billion)

Source: US Department of the Treasury, March 27, 2020.

The economy had experienced an unprecedented period of growth prior to the global pandemic, resulting in strong balance sheets and ample cash on hand among many municipal issuers. We believe now is the time for active managers to sift through the noise, headlines and speculation to find the diamonds in the rough. As the US Congress debates additional stimulus to aid municipal issuers, we can’t help but think about who will pay the resulting bill. Much of the burden will potentially fall onto taxpayers, which makes the tax exemption provided by municipal bonds that much more attractive.

Municipal Sector Focus

Senior Living

The pandemic has shifted media focus onto the senior living sector, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has hit our elderly population and senior living facilities the hardest. However, not all senior living facilities are the same. Because nursing homes provide the highest level of medical care for older adults outside of a hospital, this specialization makes them different from other senior housing facilities. Licensed physicians supervise each patient’s care and other medical professionals are almost always on the premises. Skilled nursing care is available on site, usually 24 hours a day. There are approximately 15,600 nursing homes in the US with 1.4 million patients and nearly 70% are for-profit.1 These facilities tend to be used by elderly patients in the last stages of their lives.

At Invesco Fixed Income, we focus on Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC). There are approximately 2,000 CCRCs in the US with around 80% considered not-for-profit.2 A CCRC, which is also referred to as a Life Plan Community, is a facility where a resident has access to multiple levels of care on a single campus. The benefit of this continuum of care is that residents can age in one place as their health changes over the years. Typically, a CCRC offers a combination of independent living, assisted living and/or nursing care. Roughly half of outstanding CCRC debt is non-rated, making credit research and analysis vitally important when investing in these bonds. With over 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 daily, we continue to believe there will be strong demand for this sector, especially post-pandemic.3

One of the many under-appreciated features of a CCRC is the sense of community these facilities provide to their residents. Meals, medicine, groceries and supplies are delivered to their doors. Residents receive frequent wellness checks and facilities are taking extraordinary care to protect residents and employees against the coronavirus. While these features increase costs, much of the CCRC sector is able to withstand these headwinds. We believe understanding the individual balance sheets and issues facing each issuer gives us a competitive edge when positioning our holdings for long-term success.

US States

States experienced significant revenue declines in April and May, and many will likely face difficult decisions in upcoming budget discussions. Income and sales taxes, two of the largest revenue streams, will likely be down, while increased expenditures to fight the coronavirus are also weighing on state budgets. Many of these difficulties should be ameliorated by federal government support. The CARES Act, for example, provides USD150 billion for state and local governments (Figure 2), the establishment of a Disaster Relief Fund, and additional funding for state agencies and municipalities. While we expect to see further credit bifurcation, with the weak getting weaker and the potential for credit downgrades on the horizon, we do not believe we will see defaults. One of the essential tools states have to navigate the difficult fiscal times ahead is access to the municipal market. A default would likely destroy the very tool that they need now and potentially down the road.

Footnotes

1 Source: CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/nursing-home-care.htm, March11, 2016.

2 Source: AARP, https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2017/continuing-care-retirement-communities.html. Oct. 24, 2019.

3 Source: US Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/12/by-2030-all-baby-boomers-will-be-age-65-or-older.html, Dec. 10, 2019.

Important Information

Blog Header Image: Raymond Forbes LLC / Stocksy

The value of investments and any income will fluctuate (this may partly be the result of exchange rate fluctuations) and investors may not get back the full amount invested. Past performance is not a guide to future returns.

Fixed-income investments are subject to credit risk of the issuer and the effects of changing interest rates. Interest rate risk refers to the risk that bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise and vice versa. An issuer may be unable to meet interest and/or principal payments, thereby causing its instruments to decrease in value and lowering the issuer’s credit rating.

All or a portion of the fund’s otherwise tax-exempt income may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax.

An issuer may be unable to meet interest and/or principal payments, thereby causing its instruments to decrease in value and lowering the issuer’s credit rating.

Derivatives may be more volatile and less liquid than traditional investments and are subject to market, interest rate, credit, leverage, counterparty and management risks. An investment in a derivative could lose more than the cash amount invested.

Interest rate risk refers to the risk that bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise and vice versa.

Junk bonds involve a greater risk of default or price changes due to changes in the issuer’s credit quality. The values of junk bonds fluctuate more than those of high quality bonds and can decline significantly over short time periods.

Securities which are in the medium- and lower-grade categories generally offer higher yields than are offered by higher-grade securities of similar maturity, but they also generally involve more volatility and greater risks.

Investing in municipal securities issued by entities having similar characteristics may make the fund more susceptible to fluctuation.

Municipal securities are subject to the risk that legislative or economic conditions could affect an issuer’s ability to make payments of principal and/ or interest.

The opinions referenced above are those of the authors as of April 9, 2020. These comments should not be construed as recommendations, but as an illustration of broader themes. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions; there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations.

This does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy or product for a particular investor. Investors should consult a financial advisor/financial consultant before making any investment decisions. Invesco does not provide tax advice. The tax information contained herein is general and is not exhaustive by nature. Federal and state tax laws are complex and constantly changing. Investors should always consult their own legal or tax professional for information concerning their individual situation.

NOT FDIC INSURED | MAY LOSE VALUE | NO BANK GUARANTEE

Before investing, investors should carefully read the prospectus and/or summary prospectus and carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and more complete information about the fund(s), investors should ask their advisors for a prospectus/summary prospectus or visit invesco.com/fundprospectus.

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Analyst reviews Apple stock price target amid challenges

Here’s what could happen to Apple shares next.

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They said it was bound to happen.

It was Jan. 11, 2024 when software giant Microsoft  (MSFT)  briefly passed Apple  (AAPL)  as the most valuable company in the world.

Microsoft's stock closed 0.5% higher, giving it a market valuation of $2.859 trillion. 

It rose as much as 2% during the session and the company was briefly worth $2.903 trillion. Apple closed 0.3% lower, giving the company a market capitalization of $2.886 trillion. 

"It was inevitable that Microsoft would overtake Apple since Microsoft is growing faster and has more to benefit from the generative AI revolution," D.A. Davidson analyst Gil Luria said at the time, according to Reuters.

The two tech titans have jostled for top spot over the years and Microsoft was ahead at last check, with a market cap of $3.085 trillion, compared with Apple's value of $2.684 trillion.

Analysts noted that Apple had been dealing with weakening demand, including for the iPhone, the company’s main source of revenue. 

Demand in China, a major market, has slumped as the country's economy makes a slow recovery from the pandemic and competition from Huawei.

Sales in China of Apple's iPhone fell by 24% in the first six weeks of 2024 compared with a year earlier, according to research firm Counterpoint, as the company contended with stiff competition from a resurgent Huawei "while getting squeezed in the middle on aggressive pricing from the likes of OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi," said senior Analyst Mengmeng Zhang.

“Although the iPhone 15 is a great device, it has no significant upgrades from the previous version, so consumers feel fine holding on to the older-generation iPhones for now," he said.

A man scrolling through Netflix on an Apple iPad Pro. Photo by Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images.

Future Publishing/Getty Images

Big plans for China

Counterpoint said that the first six weeks of 2023 saw abnormally high numbers with significant unit sales being deferred from December 2022 due to production issues.

Apple is planning to open its eighth store in Shanghai – and its 47th across China – on March 21.

Related: Tech News Now: OpenAI says Musk contract 'never existed', Xiaomi's EV, and more

The company also plans to expand its research centre in Shanghai to support all of its product lines and open a new lab in southern tech hub Shenzhen later this year, according to the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, Apple announced changes to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which went into effect last week, Reuters reported on March 12.

Beginning this spring, software developers operating in Europe will be able to distribute apps to EU customers directly from their own websites instead of through the App Store.

"To reflect the DMA’s changes, users in the EU can install apps from alternative app marketplaces in iOS 17.4 and later," Apple said on its website, referring to the software platform that runs iPhones and iPads. 

"Users will be able to download an alternative marketplace app from the marketplace developer’s website," the company said.

Apple has also said it will appeal a $2 billion EU antitrust fine for thwarting competition from Spotify  (SPOT)  and other music streaming rivals via restrictions on the App Store.

The company's shares have suffered amid all this upheaval, but some analysts still see good things in Apple's future.

Bank of America Securities confirmed its positive stance on Apple, maintaining a buy rating with a steady price target of $225, according to Investing.com

The firm's analysis highlighted Apple's pricing strategy evolution since the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007, with initial prices set at $499 for the 4GB model and $599 for the 8GB model.

BofA said that Apple has consistently launched new iPhone models, including the Pro/Pro Max versions, to target the premium market. 

Analyst says Apple selloff 'overdone'

Concurrently, prices for previous models are typically reduced by about $100 with each new release. 

This strategy, coupled with installment plans from Apple and carriers, has contributed to the iPhone's installed base reaching a record 1.2 billion in 2023, the firm said.

More Tech Stocks:

Apple has effectively shifted its sales mix toward higher-value units despite experiencing slower unit sales, BofA said.

This trend is expected to persist and could help mitigate potential unit sales weaknesses, particularly in China. 

BofA also noted Apple's dominance in the high-end market, maintaining a market share of over 90% in the $1,000 and above price band for the past three years.

The firm also cited the anticipation of a multi-year iPhone cycle propelled by next-generation AI technology, robust services growth, and the potential for margin expansion.

On Monday, Evercore ISI analysts said they believed that the sell-off in the iPhone maker’s shares may be “overdone.”

The firm said that investors' growing preference for AI-focused stocks like Nvidia  (NVDA)  has led to a reallocation of funds away from Apple. 

In addition, Evercore said concerns over weakening demand in China, where Apple may be losing market share in the smartphone segment, have affected investor sentiment.

And then ongoing regulatory issues continue to have an impact on investor confidence in the world's second-biggest company.

“We think the sell-off is rather overdone, while we suspect there is strong valuation support at current levels to down 10%, there are three distinct drivers that could unlock upside on the stock from here – a) Cap allocation, b) AI inferencing, and c) Risk-off/defensive shift," the firm said in a research note.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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Major typhoid fever surveillance study in sub-Saharan Africa indicates need for the introduction of typhoid conjugate vaccines in endemic countries

There is a high burden of typhoid fever in sub-Saharan African countries, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. This high…

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There is a high burden of typhoid fever in sub-Saharan African countries, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. This high burden combined with the threat of typhoid strains resistant to antibiotic treatment calls for stronger prevention strategies, including the use and implementation of typhoid conjugate vaccines (TCVs) in endemic settings along with improvements in access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Credit: IVI

There is a high burden of typhoid fever in sub-Saharan African countries, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. This high burden combined with the threat of typhoid strains resistant to antibiotic treatment calls for stronger prevention strategies, including the use and implementation of typhoid conjugate vaccines (TCVs) in endemic settings along with improvements in access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

 

The findings from this 4-year study, the Severe Typhoid in Africa (SETA) program, offers new typhoid fever burden estimates from six countries: Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, and Nigeria, with four countries recording more than 100 cases for every 100,000 person-years of observation, which is considered a high burden. The highest incidence of typhoid was found in DRC with 315 cases per 100,000 people while children between 2-14 years of age were shown to be at highest risk across all 25 study sites.

 

There are an estimated 12.5 to 16.3 million cases of typhoid every year with 140,000 deaths. However, with generic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and abdominal pain, and the need for blood culture sampling to make a definitive diagnosis, it is difficult for governments to capture the true burden of typhoid in their countries.

 

“Our goal through SETA was to address these gaps in typhoid disease burden data,” said lead author Dr. Florian Marks, Deputy Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI). “Our estimates indicate that introduction of TCV in endemic settings would go to lengths in protecting communities, especially school-aged children, against this potentially deadly—but preventable—disease.”

 

In addition to disease incidence, this study also showed that the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Salmonella Typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid fever, has led to more reliance beyond the traditional first line of antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, severe cases of the disease can lead to intestinal perforation and even death. This suggests that prevention through vaccination may play a critical role in not only protecting against typhoid fever but reducing the spread of drug-resistant strains of the bacteria.

 

There are two TCVs prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and available through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. In February 2024, IVI and SK bioscience announced that a third TCV, SKYTyphoid™, also achieved WHO PQ, paving the way for public procurement and increasing the global supply.

 

Alongside the SETA disease burden study, IVI has been working with colleagues in three African countries to show the real-world impact of TCV vaccination. These studies include a cluster-randomized trial in Agogo, Ghana and two effectiveness studies following mass vaccination in Kisantu, DRC and Imerintsiatosika, Madagascar.

 

Dr. Birkneh Tilahun Tadesse, Associate Director General at IVI and Head of the Real-World Evidence Department, explains, “Through these vaccine effectiveness studies, we aim to show the full public health value of TCV in settings that are directly impacted by a high burden of typhoid fever.” He adds, “Our final objective of course is to eliminate typhoid or to at least reduce the burden to low incidence levels, and that’s what we are attempting in Fiji with an island-wide vaccination campaign.”

 

As more countries in typhoid endemic countries, namely in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, consider TCV in national immunization programs, these data will help inform evidence-based policy decisions around typhoid prevention and control.

 

###

 

About the International Vaccine Institute (IVI)
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is a non-profit international organization established in 1997 at the initiative of the United Nations Development Programme with a mission to discover, develop, and deliver safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for global health.

IVI’s current portfolio includes vaccines at all stages of pre-clinical and clinical development for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, such as cholera, typhoid, chikungunya, shigella, salmonella, schistosomiasis, hepatitis E, HPV, COVID-19, and more. IVI developed the world’s first low-cost oral cholera vaccine, pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and developed a new-generation typhoid conjugate vaccine that is recently pre-qualified by WHO.

IVI is headquartered in Seoul, Republic of Korea with a Europe Regional Office in Sweden, a Country Office in Austria, and Collaborating Centers in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. 39 countries and the WHO are members of IVI, and the governments of the Republic of Korea, Sweden, India, Finland, and Thailand provide state funding. For more information, please visit https://www.ivi.int.

 

CONTACT

Aerie Em, Global Communications & Advocacy Manager
+82 2 881 1386 | aerie.em@ivi.int


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US Spent More Than Double What It Collected In February, As 2024 Deficit Is Second Highest Ever… And Debt Explodes

US Spent More Than Double What It Collected In February, As 2024 Deficit Is Second Highest Ever… And Debt Explodes

Earlier today, CNBC’s…

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US Spent More Than Double What It Collected In February, As 2024 Deficit Is Second Highest Ever... And Debt Explodes

Earlier today, CNBC's Brian Sullivan took a horse dose of Red Pills when, about six months after our readers, he learned that the US is issuing $1 trillion in debt every 100 days, which prompted him to rage tweet, (or rageX, not sure what the proper term is here) the following:

We’ve added 60% to national debt since 2018. Germany - a country with major economic woes - added ‘just’ 32%.   

Maybe it will never matter.   Maybe MMT is real.   Maybe we just cancel or inflate it out. Maybe career real estate borrowers or career politicians aren’t the answer.

I have no idea.  Only time will tell.   But it’s going to be fascinating to watch it play out.

He is right: it will be fascinating, and the latest budget deficit data simply confirmed that the day of reckoning will come very soon, certainly sooner than the two years that One River's Eric Peters predicted this weekend for the coming "US debt sustainability crisis."

According to the US Treasury, in February, the US collected $271 billion in various tax receipts, and spent $567 billion, more than double what it collected.

The two charts below show the divergence in US tax receipts which have flatlined (on a trailing 6M basis) since the covid pandemic in 2020 (with occasional stimmy-driven surges)...

... and spending which is about 50% higher compared to where it was in 2020.

The end result is that in February, the budget deficit rose to $296.3 billion, up 12.9% from a year prior, and the second highest February deficit on record.

And the punchline: on a cumulative basis, the budget deficit in fiscal 2024 which began on October 1, 2023 is now $828 billion, the second largest cumulative deficit through February on record, surpassed only by the peak covid year of 2021.

But wait there's more: because in a world where the US is spending more than twice what it is collecting, the endgame is clear: debt collapse, and while it won't be tomorrow, or the week after, it is coming... and it's also why the US is now selling $1 trillion in debt every 100 days just to keep operating (and absorbing all those millions of illegal immigrants who will keep voting democrat to preserve the socialist system of the US, so beloved by the Soros clan).

And it gets even worse, because we are now in the ponzi finance stage of the Minsky cycle, with total interest on the debt annualizing well above $1 trillion, and rising every day

... having already surpassed total US defense spending and soon to surpass total health spending and, finally all social security spending, the largest spending category of all, which means that US debt will now rise exponentially higher until the inevitable moment when the US dollar loses its reserve status and it all comes crashing down.

We conclude with another observation by CNBC's Brian Sullivan, who quotes an email by a DC strategist...

.. which lays out the proposed Biden budget as follows:

The budget deficit will growth another $16 TRILLION over next 10 years. Thats *with* the proposed massive tax hikes.

Without them the deficit will grow $19 trillion.

That's why you will hear the "deficit is being reduced by $3 trillion" over the decade.

No family budget or business could exist with this kind of math.

Of course, in the long run, neither can the US... and since neither party will ever cut the spending which everyone by now is so addicted to, the best anyone can do is start planning for the endgame.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/12/2024 - 18:40

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