Two of The Bond Buyer's yield indexes fell to new lows yesterday, but traders, left to their own devices thanks to post-holiday doldrums, swapped few securities and cash prices were unchanged.
The market opened one eye in the morning to glance at the jobless claims report, but the news went unseen by most market participants who extended their holiday vacations.
Initial state unemployment insurance claims fell 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Dec. 14.
Although the lower claims number reflected a slightly improved employment picture, market players remained confident that the economy will remain anemic, which bodes well for bond prices because investors will seek safety in the tax-exempt arena to escape recessionary woes felt in other markets.
Meanwhile, secondary trading was practically non-existent, although some market players reported customer inquiry, and there were some small bid-wanted lists on several broker wires, traders said.
Away from the tax-exempt sector, lower commodities prices boosted the Treasury long bond slightly, and municipal futures traders hoisted prices in concert. The March municipal contract settled up 5/32 to 96.30. The March MOB spread was calculated at negative 214.
Some traders noted that investors will encounter some sticker shock upon their eturn to business next week, reflected by new record lows on the two bond indixes.
"There probably will be some sticker shock when people get back," a Chicago-based trader acknowledged. "But once people get used to it there should still be plenty of cash around and they will put it to work readily."
The 20-bond and 11-bond indexes fell eight basis points on the week, to 6.58% and 6.44%, respectively, their lowest levels since March 5, 1987. At that time, the 20-bond index was at 6.54% and the 11-bond was at 6.40%.
The revenue bond index hit an all-time low, dropping eight basis points to 6.76%. The Municipal Bond Inex's yield to maturity also hit another all-time low, dropping seven basis points, to 6.71%.
In secondary dollar bond trading, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 6 1/2s of 2021 were quoted at 97 3/4-98 1/2 to yield 6.61%. Pennsylvania Turnpike 6 1/2s of 2013 were quoted at 98 1/4-3/8 to yield 6.54%.
In the short-term market, note yields were mostly unchanged in listless dealings.
In secondary action, California Rans were quoted offered at 3% as were Los Angeles Trans and Texas Trans. In the New York market, traders reported a block of $25 million New York City Rans and $20 million New York State Trans out for the bid.
New-issue activity was dormant yesterday, and The Bond Buyer's 30-day visible supply totaled a paltry $635 million. Standard & Poor's The Blue List of dealer inventory totaled $809 million.
Looking ahead, market participants expect volume to remain flat until the second week of January. Currently, the largest deal slated for sale during the second week of the new year is $140 million Nebraska Public Power District electric system revenue bonds, to be priced in the negotiated sector by First Boston Corp. The competitive sector is dominated by $42 million Harris County, Tex., various improvement bonds, to be sold Wednesday, Jan. 8.