First Quarter 2021

The Near-Term Tax Free Fund had a total return of negative 0.64% in the first quarter of 2021, underperforming its benchmark, the Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond 3-Year Index, which returned 0.15 percent. See complete fund performance here.

The main source of underperformance came from exposure in the seven to 10-year maturity range, as longer maturity bonds underperformed. This exposure was a result of the fund’s barbell strategy which overweighs short and long-term maturities while underweighting medium-term maturities.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance data quoted represents past performance.

Strengths

  • The fund’s allocation to maturities in the zero to one-year range was a positive contributor as performance was strong in that area of the curve.
  • The fund’s allocation to North Carolina bonds contributed positively to performance, as they outperformed the benchmark and carried a higher weighting.
  • The fund’s allocation to utilities bonds contributed positively to performance, as they outperformed the benchmark and carried a higher weighting.

Weaknesses

  • The fund’s allocation to the seven to 10-year maturity area of the curve was a detractor as bonds in those maturities underperformed the benchmark.
  • The fund’s allocation to Texas bonds contributed negatively to performance, as they underperformed the benchmark while carrying a higher weighting.
  • The fund’s allocation to school district bonds contributed negatively to performance, as they underperformed the benchmark and carried a higher weighting.

Outlook

Municipals significantly outperformed U.S. Treasuries over the quarter across most of the yield curve. Treasury yields rose, and the curve steepened due to a continued reopening of the economy and strong economic growth projections that also fueled inflation fears. While municipals were not immune to the rising interest rate environment, they were able to largely escape the sharp rise in global yields due to a robust technical setup and the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which benefitted many municipal sectors. Issuance typically tends to pick up during the second quarter after more muted first quarter volumes. Future supply may also be impacted by potential federal infrastructure legislation. After a record start to the year for muni fund inflows, demand may slow. This may be caused by the tug-of-war between cash on the sidelines looking for tax free income and concerns about further increases in interest rates. Overall, investment grade municipal credit quality should remain strong as the year progresses due to sizeable Federal Aid, better-than-expected municipalities’ revenue performance and a strong economy coming out of the pandemic. Major rating agencies have already improved their outlooks on large sectors of the municipal market such as states and local governments to reflect the improved environment. Now that the latest round of federal stimulus is in the rearview mirror, market participants will closely follow the new administration’s priorities and future policies for its implications on the overall municipal market. Using the budgetary reconciliation process, there is a higher probability that infrastructure and tax legislation, specifically as it relates to increasing corporate and individual taxes, will be the next area of focus at the federal level. Discussions surrounding policies such as infrastructure, the removal of the $10,000 state and local tax (SALT) cap, and changes to other facets of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 have also started to garner headlines and could lead to initiatives.

 

The Barclays 3-Year Municipal Bond Index is a total return benchmark designed for short-term municipal assets. The index includes bonds with a minimum credit rating BAA3, are issued as part of a deal of at least $50 million, have an amount outstanding of at least $5 million and have a maturity of 2 to 4 years.

Net Asset Value
as of 04/20/2021

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $6.49 -0.14 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $13.19 0.02 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $5.09 -0.01 China Region Fund USCOX $9.90 -0.07 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.23 -0.05 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.65 No Change Global Luxury Goods Fund USLUX $22.40 -0.30 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.25 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change