This story was reported by Geoffrey A. Campbell, Charles Gasparino, Sharon King, William Pesek Jr. and Karen Pierog. It was written by Pierog.
Good morning, municipal bond industry. It's Friday the 13th.
To some, today is just another day before the start of a summer weekend.
To others, however, it can be a day to court luck, say prayers, avoid ladders, rub rabbits' feet, or, in extreme cases, stay home. After all, the lucky can become unlucky and the unlucky unluckier still.
Bonds, like other securities that seem to ride up and down in value on the wings of chance, provide fertile ground for sowing supersititions and fears of bad luck -- especially on those 13th days of the month that fall on friday.
And even though this week has seen the Treasury market smash previous records and municipal bonds rally, there remains some trepidation about a day that derives its name from a Nordic goddes and a number that portends doom for at least one of the dinner guests at a table set for 13.
Here's what to expect today.
The head trader at one New York-based primary dealership said some of his traders bring in lucky charms on Friday the 13th. Recent examples have been a photo of the Pope, a white kitten, and a case of Foster's lager.
While the Foster's would probably help numb the day for a great many traders, some are taking less passive approach. One bond salesman said that while he is not a superstitious person, with an inflation report coming out on a Friday the 13th and the long bond yield at historical lows, he and other traders on the floor are "hedging their positions heavily and praying."
Tony Crescenzi, a fixed-income trader at Miller, Tabak, Hirsch & Co., said his traders have a large, stuffed alligator head on the trading floor, which they pet at times of great stress and uncertainty. Friday the 13th is such an occasion.
"We pet the gator head on days like Friday the 13th for luck," Crescenzi said, "The idea is that a gator is ferocious, and by petting the head, we hope some of that ferociousness will rub off on us."
For some traders, the day should pose no great challenge to their pricing skills because deals rarely get priced on a Friday.
Even so, some would be willing to try their luck.
"I'd probably be the opposite and tempt fate," said Jay Berkey, a secondary market trader at Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. in Baltimore.
Berkey, who also has no qualms about flying off for a vacation on Friday the 13th, admitted that except under unusual circumstances, "we wouldn't price on a Friday anyway."
Then there are the people who simply throw the towel come Friday the 13th.
For example, one Chicago-based money market economist said he plans to call in sick.
"If bad luck strikes and one of the traders loses a bundle, I'll be home in bed watching Regis and Kathie Lee," he said.
And there are those who use Friday the 13th to complain about other noteworthy dates.
Ronald H. Fielding, president of the Rochester Funds, said he doesn't have any problems working on Friday the 13th. In fact, he said, working that day is not as vexing as a new rule by the New York Stock Exchange forcing securities firms to work on Friday the 31st of December, which is better known as New Year's Eve.
But for investment bankers, it may be a day to avoid issuer clients.
A Chicago-based investment banker admitted he declined to meet with a client today for the very reason that it would be Friday the 13th.
"Bad things happen on Friday the 13th," the banker said. "I'd like my competition to meet with clients on Friday the 13th. Then maybe they'll be my clients on the 14th."
How about the issuers themselves? Are they superstitious about Friday the 13th?
Asked the question, an official at a rating agency said he would rather talk about the effect of the full moon on issuers.
"We've had soe strange outside meetings because of the full moon," the official said.
But that's a story for another day.
Maryland Treasurer Lucille Mauerer said she and her husband consider 13 a lucky number. But other than taking note of whether hotels have a 13th floor, Maurer said she does not let superstitions run her life -- and certainly not her job as treasurer.
"So much of financial markets is just luck anyway," she said. "The 13th is just another number."
In the end, maybe the best attitude for coping with the day can be found in the words of Clint Eastwood's character Dirty Harry: "Feel lucky, punk?"