Last Updated Jul 15, 2011 11:51 AM EDT
We are now a bit more than halfway through the year, so I thought it appropriate to see how Whitney's forecast has turned out, at least so far. For the first 24 weeks of this year, roughly $600 million of municipal bonds have defaulted. To reach Whitney's forecast, we would need to see about $7 billion a week in defaults for the rest of year. Given the current pace of a bit more than $1 billion for 2011, and the fact that the previous annual high was about $12 billion, the most likely outcome is that her forecast will go down as one of the most infamous.
Making matters even worse for investors who sold municipal bonds is that municipal bond prices have increased since her forecast. For example, through July 11, the Vanguard Intermediate Tax-Exempt Bond Fund (VWITX) and the Vanguard Long-Term Tax-Exempt Bond Fund (VWLTX) had returned 4.38 percent and 4.75 percent, respectively.
Having said that, the recession has indeed increased the risks of owning municipal bonds, which has led to one minor change in recommending municipal bonds: The increased risk increases the need for diversification. That means if you own individual bonds, you should consider decreasing the maximum exposure you have to any one issuer. My firm's credit standards remain the same:
- General obligation or essential service bonds only
- AAA/AA or A if maturity is less than three years
Given the track record of stock and bond market forecasters, one can only wonder why anyone pays attention to them. Certainly the market ignores them. And the best advice I can give (besides adopting the risk parameters mentioned above) is for you to ignore them as well.
Photo courtesy of EnergeticNYC on Flickr.
More on MoneyWatch:
Municipal Bonds: Was Meredith Whitney Right? Nouriel Roubini Misses Another Prediction Municipal Bonds: Why We Likely Won't See Armageddon If Muni Bond Defaults Spike, It Won't Be for Lack of Trying to Fix Problems How Are 2011's Sure Things Faring at Mid-Year?
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