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  • Municipal Bonds

    Strong Demand, Not Enough Supply Continues to Drive Munis

    David Schassler, Portfolio Manager and Head of Portfolio and Quantitative Investment Solutions, VanEck
    December 18, 2020
     

    The VanEck Vectors® Muni Allocation ETF (MAAX) tactically allocates among VanEck municipal bond ETFs based on interest rate and credit opportunities to seek capital appreciation plus tax-exempt income. It uses a data-driven, rules-based process that leverages technical and macroeconomic indicators to guide credit and duration exposure, seeking to avoid market risks when appropriate. The expanded PDF version of this commentary can be downloaded here.

    Overview

    The VanEck Vectors® Muni Allocation ETF (“MAAX”) had a NAV total return +2.01% vs. +1.51% for its benchmark for the month. The 30-Day SEC Yield for MAAX is 2.84% and the taxable equivalent 30-Day SEC yield, assuming the highest federal tax rate of 37%, is 4.51% as of November month-end.

    November was a great month for MAAX. Municipal bonds, particularly those with more credit and duration risk, continued to perform due to strong demand for tax-exempt yield. The top performing positions in MAAX had exposure to both high yield and long duration bonds. The VanEck Vectors® High Yield Muni ETF (HYD®), a 30% allocation within MAAX, and the VanEck Vectors® Short High Yield Muni ETF (SHYD®), a 5% allocation within MAAX, share price returned +2.78% and +2.55%, respectively. The VanEck Vectors® Long Muni ETF (MLN®), a 35% allocation within MAAX, returned +2.24%.

    Average Annual Total Returns (%) as of November 30, 2020
      1 Mo YTD 1 Year Life
    (05/15/19)
    MAAX (NAV) 2.01 -0.68 -0.65 1.80
    MAAX (Share Price) 2.09 -0.85 -0.79 1.73
    Bloomberg Barclays
    Municipal Bond Index
    1.51 4.58 4.89 5.02
    Average Annual Total Returns (%) as of September 30, 2020
      1 Mo YTD 1 Year Life
    (05/15/19)
    MAAX (NAV) -0.24 -2.45 -2.08 0.69
    MAAX (Share Price) -0.08 -2.35 -1.93 0.83
    Bloomberg Barclays
    Municipal Bond Index
    0.02 3.33 4.09 4.74

    Returns less than a year are not annualized. 

    Expenses: Gross 0.38%; Net 0.38%. Van Eck Associates Corporation (the “Adviser”) will pay all expenses of the Fund, except for the fee payment under the investment management agreement, acquired fund fees and expenses, interest expense, offering costs, trading expenses, taxes and extraordinary expenses. Expenses are based on estimated amounts for the current fiscal year. Cap excludes acquired fund fees and expenses, interest expense, trading expenses, taxes and extraordinary expenses.

    The table presents past performance which is no guarantee of future results and which may be lower or higher than current performance. Returns reflect temporary contractual fee waivers and/or expense reim­bursements. Had the ETF incurred all expenses and fees, investment re­turns would have been reduced. Investment returns and ETF share values will fluctuate so that investors’ shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

    *Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index is considered representative of the broad market for investment grade, tax-exempt municipal bonds with a maturity of at least one year.

    An interesting observation has been the recent disconnect between muni and Treasury yields. Treasury yields have been rising due to the optimism about the future of the economy. However, muni yields have not been following, due to the strong demand for tax-exempt income. Below is a chart of the weekly yield change, in basis points, of AAA-rated muni bonds compared to Treasury bonds.

    BBG Data

    In December, MAAX continues to seek yield with its 35% allocation to high yield, 35% allocation to investment grade long duration and 30% allocation to intermediate-term investment grade. We believe that this positioning allows MAAX to continue to balance both the risks and rewards of the municipal bond market.

    The next section highlights the risk factors that led to this positioning.

    Muni Risk Factors

    The model that determines the allocations for MAAX considers this to be a stable risk regime as it relates to the two key risks taken by municipal bond investors: credit and duration. It measures risk via price levels, volatility and historical relationships. Risk is scored from 0 to 100. A score of 50 or lower implies that risk is low and a score of 50 or higher implies that risk is high.

    The risk score for credit remains 0. All of the credit indicators in the model, which are designed to measure periods of heightened credit risk, remain bullish. This suggests that there is likely to be continued near-term stability in the credit markets.

    Credit Total Risk Score

    Credit Total Risk Score

    The risk score for duration declined from 33 to 0. The risk score declined because of improving price momentum in long duration bonds.

    Duration Total Risk Score

    Duration Total Risk Score

    The indicators in our model continue to point towards stability within the municipal bond market. Therefore, MAAX will continue to be positioned overweight both credit and duration relative to its benchmark. This positioning is expected to allow MAAX to continue to take advantage of the relative attractiveness, on an after-tax basis, of non-taxable versus taxable bonds.

    IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

    This content is published in the United States for residents of specified countries. Investors are subject to securities and tax regulations within their applicable jurisdictions that are not addressed on this content. Nothing in this content should be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell shares of any investment in any jurisdiction where the offer or solicitation would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction, nor is it intended as investment, tax, financial, or legal advice. Investors should seek such professional advice for their particular situation and jurisdiction.

    An investment in the Funds may be subject to risks which include, fund of funds risk, high portfolio turnover, model and data risks, management, operational, authorized participant concentration and absence of prior active market risks, trading issues, market, fund shares trading, premium/discount and liquidity of fund shares and non-diversified risks. The funds may be subject to following risks as a result of investing in Exchange Traded Products including municipal securities, credit, high yield securities, tax, interest rate, call, state concentration and sector concentration risks. Municipal bonds may be less liquid than taxable bonds. There is no guarantee that a Funds’ income will be exempt from federal, state or local income taxes, and changes in those tax rates or in alternative minimum tax (AMT) rates or in the tax treatment of municipal bonds may make them less attractive as investments and cause them to lose value. Capital gains, if any, are subject to capital gains tax. A portion of the dividends you receive may be subject to AMT. For a more complete description of these and other risks, please refer to each Fund’s prospectus.

    Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index is considered representative of the broad market for investment grade, tax-exempt municipal bonds with a maturity of at least one year.

    The VanEck Vectors ETFs are not sponsored by, endorsed, sold or promoted by Bloomberg or Barclays and neither Bloomberg nor Barclays makes any representation regarding the advisability of investing in them. The only relationship to the Adviser with respect to the VanEck Vectors ETFs is the licensing of certain trademarks and trade names of Bloomberg and Barclays and the BLOOMBERG BARCLAYS INDICES that are determined, composed and calculated by Bloomberg without regard to the Adviser or any investor in the VanEck Vectors ETFs.

    Investing involves substantial risk and high volatility, including possible loss of principal. Bonds and bond funds will decrease in value as interest rates rise. An investor should consider the investment objective, risks, charges and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus and summary prospectus, which contains this and other information, call 800.826.2333 or visit vaneck.com. Please read the prospectus and summary prospectus carefully before investing.

    © 2020 VanEck.

  • Authored by

    David Schassler
    Portfolio Manager and Head of Portfolio and Quantitative Investment Solutions, VanEck