The cruelest month? Muni investors would probably say November. But the sell-off that began when Donald Trump won the US election already appears to be running out of steam. Investors who sell now may soon regret it.
Why? Because the municipal market is built for recovery. Sure, a narrow investor base makes municipal bonds susceptible to sudden downturns like the one that shaved almost 4% off the market in November. But this is a market that, historically, has bounced back quickly—usually in less than a year. The rebound may already be underway.
History also shows that higher income eventually overcomes price declines and ultimately leads to positive returns. This is a key reason why bonds are a major building block of a safety-oriented portfolio.
Even so, there are adjustments that skilled portfolio managers can make to keep investors’ muni portfolios safe as we wait for more detail about Trump’s plans to cut taxes and boost spending. Here are five things investors may want to consider:
1) DON’T BE PASSIVE. Some investors try to protect their portfolios from rising rates by building a ladder of passive muni strategies. But ladders are static. Market conditions, on the other hand, change. Today’s elevated volatility and uncertainty make active management essential.
2) STAY FLEXIBLE. Trump wants to cut federal tax rates, and with Republicans in control of Congress, he’ll probably get his way. Details are still hazy, though, and that will keep the market volatile. The ability to use taxable bonds opportunistically can help preserve capital.
3) CONSIDER INFLATION PROTECTION. Lower taxes and Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan could lead to higher inflation. But for investors who pay US taxes, buying Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities isn’t an ideal way to shield a bond portfolio. A muni portfolio that gets inflation protection through consumer price index swaps may be more tax efficient.