The largest exchange-traded fund tracking the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal-bond market is selling at a discount to its underlying assets for the longest stretch since 2011 as investors pull the most cash from muni mutual funds in three months.
The $3.6 billion iShares S&P National AMT-Free Municipal Bond Fund (MUB) traded below its net asset value for 15 days through March 28, the longest stretch since August 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show. MUB, as the fund is known, sold at an 0.23 percent discount on March 28. MUB’s shares closed at $110.16 in New York today, close to an eight-month low.
MUB’s discount and price drop reflect investors pulling $513 million from muni mutual funds for the four weeks ending March 27. That’s the most since December and the first week of January, when investors withdrew $2.75 billion, Lipper US Fund Flows data show.
“Only when we see net asset values moving back toward positive territory are we likely again to start seeing fund inflows,” Mikhail Foux, a muni analyst at Citigroup, wrote in a March 15 report about muni ETFs trading at a discount.
Some investors see a discount as an opportunity to buy the fund, which typically has traded at a premium since it was created in 2007.
Muni investors tend to sell tax-exempt securities or avoid buying them to help make April 15 tax payments. The broader muni market has lost value in March for five consecutive years, falling 0.59 percent last month, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch data.
The $15.07 billion iShares Core Total US Bond Market ETF, which tracks the nation’s fixed-income trading, sold at a discount for one day in March, pricing at a premium all other days, Bloomberg data show. It ended trading today at $110.57, below the one-year average of $111.25.
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