29 February 2008

Portfolio and municipal bonds

I wasn't a big fan of the Condé Nast business publication, Portfolio, when it debuted last spring. Indeed, you can read one of my early reactions here if you like.

But it has grown on me. Or perhaps they've found their own footing since then. No more Tom Wolfe style onomatopeia for hands rapping on a door in the middle of the night.

No, instead we have someone like Jesse Eisinger, making a very intelligent case in the March 2008 issue that the whole "municipal bond" insurance market is one big scam. No, I wouldn't buy a bridge from Mr. Buffett.

Though I love his cousin's tune, Margaritaville. I've sung it at karaoke places many times.

And where the heck is that shaker of salt....


j brownfield said...

The problem is not that the municipal bond market is a scam; the problem is that the players in the municipal bond market have been mis-pricing risk.

Given the 1970 to 2006 experience of municipal default rates, municipal bond buyers are crazy to have priced in a large rate spread between insured and uninsured municipal bond offering. You can argue all you want that municipalities should have been paying lower rates all along, but you can't hold a gun to the head of a municipal bond buyer and insist they buy municipal bonds with yields we deem "rational".

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