Yields on The Bond Buyer's weekly bond indexes resumed their summertime slide to 13- and 14-year lows this week, as the market largely recovered from a case of the jitters and pushed bond prices moderately higher.
The 30-year revenue bond index reached another all-time low, falling 11 basis points, to 6.22% from 6.33% last week.
The daily Municipal Bond Index's average yield to par call dropped 12 basis points, to a record low of 6.14% from 6.26% last Thursday. The Bond Buyer began calculating the yield to par call on July 2, 1984.
The Municipal Bond Index itself, which is based on bond prices, broke through the century barrier for the first time since March 27, 1987, rising 1/2 point to close at 100 3/32.
The 20-bond index of general obligation yields fell 12 basis points, to 6.04% from 6.16% last week, while the 11-bond GO index dropped 11 basis points, to 5.97% from 6.08% a week ago. The 20-bond index is at its lowest level since Sept. 14, 1978, when it was 6.02%, and the 11-bond index has not been lower since Aug. 23, 1979, when it was 5.92%.
The 20-bond and revenue bond indexes have descended for eight consecutive weeks, with the 20-bond index down 54 basis points and the revenue index down 52 basis points.
Prices of U.S. government securities also rose this week, although not as much as municipals, pushing the 30-year Treasury bond's yield eight basis points lower, to 7.53% from 7.61%.
More reports of a sluggish economy and a light supply of new issues perked up a tax-exempt market that had been worrying that prices had risen so far that a correction was imminent.
While the week was largely devoid of major economic reports, what news there was boded well for lower interest rates. Last Friday the Census Bureau said the U.S. trade deficit rose 4.5%, to $7.4 billion, in May.
On Wednesday Alan Greenspan told a House Banking subcommittee that the Federal Reserve Board was considering lowering its money supply growth targets. That pleased long-term Treasury traders who had been concerned that the Fed would cut interest rates again to get money supply to grow more rapidly.
Yesterday initial claims for unemployment insurance were reported to have risen a greater-than-expected 19,000, to a seasonally adjusted 422,000 in the week ended July 11.
Technical factors also gave municipal prices an extra boost, as underwriters were able to keep pricing new issues aggressively. The Bond Buyer's 30-day visible supply hovered between $3.2 billion and $3.7 billion during the week, keeping July's average at about $3.1 billion - more than $1 billion below the year-to-date average of $4.2 billion.
"We were dead in the water and then we had a spurt of activity," one trader said Tuesday. "There still seems to be money to spend out there, and the bigger the block you have the better off you are."
Still, some traders remained nervous about a possible correction. "Accounts have cash to spend, and it feels very firm," a trader said late Wednesday. "It's a tough market because you have to be nervous, and people are always expecting a price drop. But if you're not in now, you're shut out because levels are so high."
In the short-term note sector, The Bond Buyer's one-year noted index fell 10 basis points, to 3.05% from 3.15%.