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The Barclays Capital Municipal Bond Index gained 1.01 percent during the first quarter. Municipal bonds have now rallied for five quarters in a row, and even though the Federal Reserve continues to talk tough, the market is not buying it yet. See complete fund performance here.
The long end of the curve was the best performer, but the entire curve rallied. The short-to-intermediate portion of the curve, where the fund is primarily invested, experienced returns in the 25 to 75 basis point range. Credit factors played a role as lower-quality bonds outperformed. AAA-rated municipals gained 0.79 percent in the quarter versus a gain of 1.76 percent for BBB-rated bonds. General obligation munis underperformed revenue-backed bonds as hospital- and industrial development-backed bonds outperformed. Puerto Rico and Florida outperformed, while Illinois and New Jersey underperformed.
The Fed continues to prep the market for a rate hike later this year in an attempt to normalize monetary policy. The economy has been strong in recent quarters, but it decelerated somewhat in the first quarter. Employment and housing data have been strong, while manufacturing is showing signs of a slowdown, likely driven by a strong U.S. dollar and weak energy sector. Consumer confidence remains at elevated levels on better employment data, rising wealth effects and lower energy prices. While the Fed is on track to tighten policy, many areas of the world are embarking on new monetary stimulus measures, giving the Fed some breathing room.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The Barclays Municipal Bond Index is an unmanaged index representative of the tax-exempt bond market. The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) is an indicator which measures consumer confidence in the Economy.