An eleventh-hour technical rally pushed yields on The Bond Buyer's long-term bond indexes slightly lower last week, marking their first decline in six weeks.
The 20-bond index of general obligation yields dropped three basis points, to 7.03% last Wednesday from 7.06% the previous Thursday, while the 11-bond index fell two basis points, to 6.92% from 6.94%. The 30-year revenue bond index declined five basis points, to 7.32% last Wednesday from 7.37% the previous Thursday.
The weekly indexes were calculated Wednesday instead of Thursday because of the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
The average yield to maturity of the 40 bonds used in calculating the daily Municipal Bond Index dropped four basis points on the week, to 7.29% last Wednesday from 7.33% the Thursday before.
Tax-exempt bond prices spent most of the holiday-shortened week sliding lower in extremely light trading. Prices were flat to 1/8 lower Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.
All that mined around Wednesday morning, when a rally that had begun in U.S. government securities Tuesday spilled over into municipals. Many traders attributed the gains to a sudden rush of investors out of a shaky stock market and into bonds. That "flight to quality" helped push the yield on the bellwether 30-year Treasury bond down 18 basis points on the week, to 7.94% Wednesday from 8.12% the previous Thursday.
Municipal traders said, however, that the tax-exempt market remained bearish, and they were unsure whether this technical rally could be sustained by crossover, arbitrage, and small individual investors.
Before last week's rally, municipal bond prices had fallen five straight weeks and in 10 of the 11 weeks since Sept. 1. That had lifted yields to their highest levels in more than three years.
The 20-bond index had reached its highest level since July 11, 1991, when it was 7.07%. The 11-bond index had not been higher since July 3, 1991, when it was 6.95%. The revenue bond index had hit its highest reading since Jan. 10, 1991, when it was 7.40%. And the yield to maturity has not been higher since March 28, 1991, when it was 7.34%.
In the short end, The Bond Buyer's one-year note index rose two basis points last week, to 4.53% Wednesday from 4.51% the previous Wednesday. That is the highest level since Oct. 23, 1991, when the one-year index was 4.70%.