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Premium Municipal Bonds and Issuer Fiscal Distress
Economic theory suggests that bond issuers of lower credit quality or higher opacity should be more likely to issue bonds with premium coupons (higher coupon rates relative to yields at issuance). Using a comprehensive data set of municipal bonds issued between 1992 and 2012 by more than 21,000 issuers, we show that this has not been the case until the early 2000s. We examine what changed in this market to bring it into greater alignment with economic principles. We argue that the Government Accounting Standards Board?s Statement 34 that required the use of accrual accounting rules in ...
Reach for Yield by U.S. Public Pension Funds
This paper studies whether U.S. public pension funds reach for yield by taking more investment risk in a low interest rate environment. To study funds? risk-taking behavior, we first present a simple theoretical model relating risk-taking to the level of risk-free rates, to their underfunding, and to the fiscal condition of their state sponsors. The theory identifies two distinct channels through which interest rates and other factors may affect risk-taking: by altering plans? funding ratios, and by changing risk premia. The theory also shows the effect of state finances on funds? risk-taking ...
The impact of the pandemic and the Fed’s muni program on Illinois muni yields
We estimate a simple model in which variations in Illinois daily municipal bond yields are explained by high-frequency indicators summarizing economic and public health conditions in Illinois, as well as key changes in the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility (or MLF). We find that the MLF appears to have reduced Illinois muni yields by more than 200 basis points.
Financial Innovations and Issuer Sophistication in Municipal Securities Markets
When local governments default or file for bankruptcy, it is often because public officials misunderstood the risks associated with innovative financial products. If unsophisticated municipal bond issuers were to widely adopt a high risk financial product, this could harm taxpayers and investors, as well as destabilize the financial system. This analysis uses municipal bond issuers? total debt outstanding as a proxy for their sophistication and investigates the relationship between sophistication and adoption of financial innovations. Using comprehensive data on securities issued between 1992 ...
Decentralization and Overborrowing in a Fiscal Federation
We build an infinite horizon equilibrium model of fiscal federation, where anticipation of transfers from the central government creates incentives for local governments to overborrow. Absent commitment, the central government over-transfers, which distorts the central-local distribution of resources. Applying the model to fiscal decentralization, we find when decentralization widens local governments? fiscal gap, borrowings by both local and central governments rise. Quantitatively, fiscal decentralization accounts for from 19 percent to 40 percent of changes in general government debt in ...
Reach for Yield by U.S. Public Pension Funds
This paper studies whether U.S. public pension funds reach for yield by taking more investment risk in a low interest rate environment. To study funds?? risk-taking behavior, we first present a simple theoretical model relating risk-taking to the level of risk-free rates, to their underfunding, and to the fiscal condition of their state sponsors. The theory identifies two distinct channels through which interest rates and other factors may affect risk-taking: by altering plans?? funding ratios, and by changing risk premia. The theory also shows the effect of state finances on funds?? ...
Municipal Markets and the Municipal Liquidity Facility
Municipal bond markets experienced a significant amount of strain in response to the COVID-19 crisis, creating liquidity and credit concerns among market participants. During the economic shutdown resulting from the pandemic, income tax revenues were deferred and sales tax revenues decreased beginning in spring 2020, while the cost of borrowing significantly increased for municipal issuers. To aid municipal borrowing needs, the Federal Reserve implemented the Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) on April 9, 2020. In this analysis we describe the municipal market conditions as they evolved ...
Transparency in state debt disclosure
We develop a new measure of relative debt transparency by comparing the amount of state debt reported in the annual Census survey and the amount reported in the statistical section of the state Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). GASB 44 requires states to start reporting their total debt in the CAFR statistical section in FY 2006. However, states are allowed to use accounting choices to exclude some dependent agencies? debt, which contributes to a gap between the two data sources. The regression results suggest that the gap tends to increase when states face greater fiscal stress ...
Flight to Liquidity or Safety? Recent Evidence from the Municipal Bond Market
We examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent monetary and fiscal policy actions on municipal bond market pricing. Using high-frequency trading data, we estimate key policy events at the peak of the crisis by focusing on a sample of bonds within a narrow window before and after each policy event. We find that policy interventions, in particular those with explicit credit backstops, were effective in alleviating municipal bond market stress. Next, we exploit daily variation in traded municipal bonds and virus exposure across U.S. counties. We find a shift in how bond investors ...
Sovereign Default in the US
In the absence of a judicial mechanism to reduce the debt burden of a sovereign member of our Union, the resolution process can be quick but perhaps too indifferent to the health, safety, and welfare of the affected residents. In this paper, I use evidence from the Arkansas state archives to provide a description of the events surrounding the default of the state in 1933. I examine the evolution of the negotiations, the outcomes, and the role of fiscal policy.