When Rates Rise, Munis Win Race While Cash Sleeps

14 July 2021
1 Minute Read
What to Do About Rising Rates? Just Give It Time
When yields rose > .4%, for 2, 6, and 12 months. High grade: -1.1, .9, and 3.7. High yield: -.4, 2.5, 5.3. Cash: .3, .8, 1.8.

Historical analysis does not guarantee future results.
As of June 30, 2021
*January 1995 through June 2021
†Returns on the Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index, Bloomberg Barclays High-Yield Municipal Bond Index and SIFMA Municipal Swap Index, January 1995 through June 2021
Source: Bloomberg Barclays, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and AllianceBernstein (AB)

Worried about rising rates? Taking your money out of the municipal market and putting it in cash could cost you.

From January 1995 through June 2021, Treasury rates rose more than half a percentage point over a two-month period at a frequency of nearly 9%. An increase of more than 0.4% occurred at a frequency of 13%. Unfortunately for investors, it’s hard to predict exactly when those rate rises will occur.

Nonetheless, we compared how an investor who timed a move to cash just right would have done during those periods when the 10-year Treasury yield rose more than 0.4% in two months. At first, the cash investor would have outperformed the investor who had stayed put in either investment-grade or high-yield munis. But within three to four months of the start of the rate increase, muni investors would have broken even. By six months, on average, munis were handily beating cash. And by 12 months, they were dominating, at 3.7% and 5.3%, for high-grade and high-yield municipals, respectively, versus 1.8% for cash.

The winning tortoise in this race? Municipal bonds.

Simply put, when money sleeps, it stops working for you. As a muni investor, you need your money to work hard. So as rates rise, consider staying invested and letting the power of yield plus time fuel your race.

The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams. Views are subject to change over time.