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May 23, 2021 | Why Tax-Free Munis Are Still a Buy

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

 

 

Investors who feared muni-bond defaults when the pandemic first hit created unusual opportunity for those willing to buck the tide. One of the winners was Doug Behnfield, a Boulder-based financial adviser at Morgan Stanley whose ideas have been featured here many times over the years. Doug is not only one of the savviest investors I know, he is one of the savviest guys. Now, he is quite bullish on municipal bonds for reasons spelled out in a report that went out to clients in April.  He also thinks Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s confidence that the inflationary effects of stimulus and fiscal spending will be “transitory” is well founded and that this has already been discounted by stocks and bonds.

Doug and his clients enjoyed an exceptional year in munis because he started buying them when others were dumping them. Prices subsequently recovered and then some, yielding excellent gains for anyone who’d faded the panic.  Doug is a canny contrarian who shares your editor’s view that deflation poses a greater threat to the U.S. economy than inflation. More immediately, he expects pent-up demand to produce a subdued recovery rather than boom times. It will take years for growth to recover, he says, in part because consumers have learned beneficial lessons of frugality.

A Limited Supply

There are additional factors that have made Doug especially bullish on municipal bonds. For one, they are exempt from federal income tax. Substantial tax hikes planned by the Democrats will therefore make municipal bonds even more attractive.  Munis also are exempt from a tax that affects mainly the wealthy: the 3.8% levy on investment income under the Affordable Care Act.  Limited supply is another reason munis stand to do well over the next couple of years or longer, he says. Cities will not have to raise as much money with bonds because the states have received hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus grants. You can access the full report by clicking here.

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May 23rd, 2021

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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