Municipal prices were narrowly mixed yesterday in light holiday trading.
Tax-exempt bonds were firm last week as supply dried up and demand held strong, thanks mostly to massive redemptions and various payments on Jan. 1.
The bullish sentiment carried over into yesterday's session, but so little trading took place that market players termed the day a nonevent.
Traders reported some spotty activity and there was one bids list totaling about $30 million. For example, several traders said a sizable block of New Jersey 6s of 2013 changed hands at approximately 6.08%, about unchanged on the day.
But all activity ceased by early afternoon and secondary bonds were quoted narrowly mixed on the day.
In the debt futures market, government prices were lower in light trading, dragging tax-free futures prices with them. The March municipal contract settled down 3/32 to 97.02.
In secondary dollar bond trading, prices were quoted mixed on the day.
In late action, traders quoted New York State Dormitory Authority 6s of 2022 at 933/8-3/4 to yield 6.50%; New Jersey GO 6s of 201 1 at 99 5/8-7/8 to yield 6.03%; and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority 61/8s of 2021 were quoted at 99-1/2 to yield 6.20%.
In the short-term note sector, yields were unchanged on the day.
In late trading, notes of Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were quoted at 2.17% bid, 2.10% offered. Texas notes were quoted at 2.16% bid, 2.10% offered.
This Week's Market
Looking ahead, market players generally remained bullish, despite the weakness in the government market, although some kept a watchful eye on the long bond.
"You expect it to stay in a range, but a couple of days of weakness could amount to some danger," a trader said. "The tone is bullish but cautious."
Other market observers said the first quarter is often volatile, thanks to price run-ups at year-end, uncertain economic data during the beginning of the year, and fiscal news from Washington. Adding to the uncertainty, a new administration will take the White House in January.
"While everybody believes the markets should do better in January, it feels like the dealers are taking a more cautious approach." said James L. Kochan, head of fixed-income research at Robert W. Baird & Co. "The first quarter is often volatile, thanks to unreliable economic data and budget news from Washington, and a cautious approach is warranted, especially since everyone is so optimistic."
National traders also reported quiet dealings, but were looking forward to an influx of cash on Jan. 1, hoping to own enough inventory to take advantage of the expected demand.
"We wonder if we're going to have enough bonds to meet the demand we're expecting," a Chicago-based trader said.
Supply remains comparatively low to the avalanche of deals priced during the waning weeks of 1992.
The Bond Buyer calculated 30-day visible supply at $2.99 billion yesterday, unchanged from last Thursday's level.
Secondary supply has also continued to shrink. The Blue List of secondary dealer holdings fell $106 million to $1.75 billion yesterday.
The North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency has announced that it is back on track with its huge power system revenue bond financing.
The agency expects to bring about $1.6 billion of debt to market the week of Jan. 11 through a syndicate led by Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. as senior manager.
The offering had originally been scheduled for sale by the Smith Barney group on Sept. 22. But after pricing the bonds that day, the agency pulled the deal, citing market conditions.
The upcoming issue tentatively includes about $115 million of new-money revenue bonds to build new generating facilities, with the remaining debt to be used to advance refund agency bonds issued between 1986 and 1991, Kristen Johanson, a Smith Barney vice president of public finance, said yesterday.
She said the power agency is considering including some derivatives products in the offering.
"We hope to bring the deal to market in two weeks because interest rates are favorable right now," Johanson said. "The deal is being announced now because we felt it was only fair to give the market time to prepare."