Market Sector Update
- Municipal market performance was primarily driven by increasing Treasury market rates as the market began to price in expectations of the initial Federal Reserve (Fed) interest rate liftoff date. Municipals outperformed Treasuries except on the very front-end of the yield curve.
- Defaults in the municipal bond asset class continue to be rare. While we anticipate increased headline risk from municipal issuers that have severe underfunded pensions and other postretirement benefit obligations, we continue to believe that these problems are not systemic, and that they will remain isolated.
- All Puerto Rican credits continue to be pressured, with many trading at expected post-default recovery levels. There is a high level of headline risk, restructuring opinions, legislative noise and rating agency downgrades that will continue to keep these credits depressed.
- The municipal yield curve steepened significantly in the quarter.
- Municipal bonds with maturities of 20 years and longer currently yield more than Treasuries. This is quite rare and we believe presents a very attractive relative value opportunity for investors.
- Interest rates increased across the entire yield curve with the long end getting hit the hardest. U.S. economic data continued to strengthen as we moved through the quarter which pulled forward expectations for initial fed funds liftoff date. While we expect U.S. gross domestic product to grow at a respectable level over the rest of the year, investors appear to be concerned that problems in the rest of the world will be a drag on U.S. growth and result in continued dollar strength and a potential deflationary spiral.
- Europe, China and Japan continue to run very stimulative monetary policy operations. The European Central Bank's quantitative easing operations appeared to be producing positive growth results that have recently been set back by the turmoil in Greece.
- Treasury and municipal rates are still extremely low by all historical standards. We remain very cautious as we believe that interest rates will need to normalize at some point in time. The portfolio duration is currently neutral to our benchmark. We continue to maintain our overweight slant to spread product in the A-BBB range.
- We will continue to place emphasis on diversification, higher (overall) credit quality and yield curve positioning.
- We remain confident that municipal bond defaults will continue to be much lower than any other fixed-income alternatives, besides U.S. Treasuries.
- We will continue to monitor the situation in Puerto Rico, but we do not believe that there will be any spillover into other parts of the investment grade market, regardless of the outcome. The Fund currently has no exposure to Puerto Rico credits.
- We do not anticipate any far-reaching tax code overhaul that would alter municipal bond tax exemptions. We expect to see continued headlines on municipal pension underfunding and other retirement benefits issues. We will remain vigilant in monitoring these situations and we will endeavor to avoid investments with these issuers.
- We expect Treasury yields to be the primary driver of the investment-grade municipal bond market as we move into Q3 2015. Demand technicals will continue to play a very important role in relative performance.
- While it is certainly plausible that the long-running bull market in bonds might be over, we do not believe that an outright bear market is beginning. Global central banks appear determined to keep interest rates artificially low. They continue to express concern that growth may not be sustainable if rates were to move higher.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the Fund’s manager and are current through June 30, 2015. The manager’s views are subject to change at any time based on market and other conditions, and no forecasts can be guaranteed. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Risk factors. The value of the Fund's shares will change, and you could lose money by investing. Fixed income securities are subject to interest rate risk and, as such, the net asset value of the fund may fall as interest rates rise. Investing in below investment grade securities may carry a greater risk of nonpayment of interest or principal than higher-rated bonds. The Fund may include a significant portion of its investments that will pay interest that is taxable under the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Exempt-interest dividends the Fund pays may be subject to state and local income taxes. The portion of the dividends the Fund pays that is attributable to interest earned on U.S. government securities generally is not subject to those taxes, although distributions by the Fund to its shareholders of net realized gains on the sale of those securities are fully subject to those taxes. The municipal securities market generally, or certain municipal securities in particular, may be significantly affected by adverse political, legislative or regulatory changes or litigation at the Federal or state level. These and other risks are more fully described in the fund’s prospectus. Not all funds or fund classes may be offered at all broker/ dealers.
Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of a fund carefully before investing. For a prospectus, or if available, a summary prospectus, containing this and other information for the mutual funds offered by Waddell & Reed, call your financial advisor or visit us online at www.waddell.com. Please read the prospectus or summary prospectus carefully before investing.