Are Fears in the Municipal Bond Market Misplaced?


Writing for On Wall Street in an article published 9/1/2015, Jeff Tjornehoj, who heads up Lipper’s research efforts in the U.S., Canada and Latin America, evaluates whether recent outflows from municipal bond funds might represent misplaced fears.  In support of his case, Mr. Tjornehoj points to three factors influencing the municipal market which may either be resolved in the near term, or be somewhat overstated in the headlines.  In regard to Puerto Rico, Jeff concludes that while headline risk isn’t going away, the commonwealth has more to lose in a default scenario than by working with creditors.  Supply in the municipal market has risen over the past year largely as the result of new issuance the form of refinancing at current rates, ahead of the much-anticipated Fed Funds rate increase.  In the current environment, yields on municipal bonds are very attractive relative to Treasuries, adding to the appeal of the asset class.  Finally, the US Treasury market has experienced increased volatility amid global economic concerns and the continuing ‘will they – won’t they’ debate over an increase in the Federal Funds rate.  Mr. Tjornehoj’s contention is that once the Fed makes their move on rates, a cloud of uncertainty will clear from the markets.  See the full article for Mr. Tjornehoj’s discussion of these topics. 

You will find information on the Aquila Group of Funds seven double tax-exempt municipal bond funds on this site.

Before investing in a Fund, carefully read about and consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information found in the Fund prospectus, which is available on this site, from your financial adviser, and when you call 800-437-1020.


Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund – Bloomberg feature


Bloomberg Markets published a feature describing the distinctive aspects of the Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund investment strategy, which co-portfolio manager Sandy Rufenacht summarized as “return on debt paydown”.   Investment ideas for the Fund originate with high-yield bond research and the identification of high-yield issuers that plan to pay down debt, thereby improving the corporate balance sheet.  Mr. Rufenacht and co-manager Zach Miller search for companies with balance sheets that “have enough leverage to propel shareholders’ equity, but not so much leverage that they’re looked down on in the high-yield market”.  This brand of high-yield bond research and a conservative approach to the high-yield market are also deployed in the management of Aquila Three Peaks High Income Fund.

Sandy Rufenacht also discussed the Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund investment strategy during a Bloomberg TV interview on August 25, 2015 in which reference was made to the article.

Earlier this year, Lipper recognized Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund with a 2015 Lipper Fund Award based on the 3-year performance period ending 12/31/2014.  The Wall Street Journal has repeatedly included the Fund in its Category Kings report in their mid-cap core category.

In an interview published on the Aquila Group of Funds website, Mr. Rufenacht described his approach to searching for “companies demonstrating their fiscal responsibility by paying down debt and generating the free cash flow to do so—cash flow that ideally is earmarked for debt paydown through covenants.”  Both Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund and Aquila Three Peaks High Income Fund are managed following a consistent and disciplined investment approach aligned with the guiding principles of Aquila Group of Funds.

Additional information on Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund, including current performance, is available on this site.

Before investing in a Fund, carefully read about and consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information found in the Fund prospectus, which is available on this site, from your financial advisor, and when you call 800-437-1020.


Aquila Municipal Bond Funds Continue to Avoid Puerto Rico Debt


Each of the municipal bond funds offered in the Aquila Group of Funds adheres to an investment strategy focused on investment grade bonds as a means of managing credit risk, and an intermediate average portfolio maturity as a means of managing interest rate risk. In keeping with our emphasis on high-quality holdings, the seven state-specific municipal bond funds offered by Aquila have no Puerto Rico holdings, whereas Morningstar has reported that over 20% of US Bond Funds had roughly an $11.3 billion total exposure to Puerto Rico debt as of 3/31/15; down from two-thirds of funds having exposure a year ago.

On Monday June 29th, Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced that the territory’s approximately $73 billion in municipal debt is unpayable and called for concessions from creditors. Moody’s downgraded Puerto Rico’s general obligation debt into junk territory with a negative outlook on July 1, 2015, which was the seventh downgrade in five years.

On the Aquila Group of Funds website, you will find information regarding the investment strategies and full portfolio holdings of each state-specific municipal bond fund. The investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information will be found in the Fund prospectus. Information on the Fund holdings will be found in the Fact Sheet, Annual and Semi-Annual reports, and the Portfolio Holdings report. We encourage you to review this information, and to visit the web site frequently for updates on each fund, and our perspectives on the markets.


Facebook Aquila Project Draws on a Familiar Namesake


Aquila, the Latin term meaning eagle, was selected by the founder of Aquila Group of Funds, Lacy Herrmann, as the name and brand of the mutual fund company that he launched over 30 years ago.  Mr. Herrmann’s mission then was to provide investors, in states under-served by the small number of single-state municipal bond funds available at the time, with funds that would generate income exempt from both state and federal income tax.

On July 30, 2015 another corporate founder announced an ambitious new project, also dubbed Aquila.  Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, announced that Aquila, the company’s high-altitude, solar-powered aircraft, would take its first test flight later in 2015.  The Facebook Aquila aircraft will use laser communication technology to provide high-speed internet connectivity to people not served by landlines and cellular networks.  According to Facebook Vice President, Jay Parikh, their mission is “to connect everybody in the world”.

The Aquila Group of Funds has been providing investment strategies to our valued fund shareholders and their financial advisors since 1985.  Learn more about the Guiding Principles of Aquila Group of Funds, and about the investment services we provide, on this site.


All I Want for Christmas is Muni Bonds


Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, in a recent interview with Bond Buyer, suggested that parents should consider giving their children municipal bonds as Christmas gifts.  “I think that it’s probably a lot better for the economy and the planet than buying a kid another toy that’s going to break in 20 minutes.”  Senator Wyden has been meeting with constituents in hundreds of town-hall meetings throughout Oregon, observing that the future of counties and municipalities will require investment in infrastructure supported by municipal bonds.

Senator Wyden has also been promoting his latest bond bill known as the Move America Act of 2015 which would provide a means of financing projects with public and private investment in order to address the nationwide need for investment in infrastructure.  The municipal market has taken a positive view of Wyden’s proposal with the stipulation that Move America Bonds supplement, rather than replace, traditional tax-exempt bonds.  Wyden’s bill is currently being reviewed by House members prior to introduction.


Aquila Tax-Free Fund For Utah


Shareholders of Aquila Tax-Free Fund For Utah are cordially invited to attend their annual shareholder meeting Monday, September 21, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. at the Little America Hotel, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Attendees will have the opportunity to visit with Fund Executives, Trustees, the Portfolio Manager and hear Utah State Senator, Lyle Hillyard, speak about the Utah economy.

Please plan to attend.  We look forward to seeing you on September 21st.



A New Approach to Bonds


The July 11, 2015 issue of Barron’s features a cover story on investing in bonds which includes a favorable perspective on municipal bonds, amid general concerns regarding rising rates.  While the timing and magnitude of a future Fed Funds rate increase is still uncertain, expectations cluster around a 0.25% increase in September, 2015.  If we do see a rate increase in September, it won’t be the first time that rates have gone up.  Over the past 30 years, interest rates have been declining, but that general trend is marked by periods in which the Fed Funds rate rose by as much as 4%.

The head of a fixed-income asset management company is quoted in the Barron’s article, saying “the rich are getting richer, and they’re getting older”.  The point relates to demand for municipal bonds in that there is a growing population of aging investors attracted to the tax-exempt income offered by municipal bonds.  Recently, the supply of municipal bonds has declined as municipal issuers have worked to manage their budgets.  Supply is likely to decline further in an environment of higher rates which increase the cost of borrowing for these issuers.  Limited supply and heightened demand can provide support for prices. Read more “A New Approach to Bonds”


Utah and Colorado Ranked #3 and #4 in Top States for Business


Each year, CNBC evaluates all 50 states using 60 business and economic metrics in 10 categories to come up with an annual “Top States for Business” list. This year Minnesota took the top spot, with Texas second, followed by Utah in third place and Colorado in fourth.US Map separate United States

Since 2012, Utah has consistently ranked number three on the list. CNBC cited job growth, low unemployment, improvement in education and low tax rates as factors contributing to the State’s pro-business environment.

Colorado took a big leap this year to number four from tying for number eight in 2014. The state ranked seventh in 2013. Colorado’s largest contributing factor was the economy. The state has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, with strong job growth and an unemployment rate well below the national average.

More information on the Utah and Colorado economies can be found in our latest investment commentaries for Aquila Tax-Free Fund For Utah and Aquila Tax-Free Fund of Colorado.


Before investing in a Fund, carefully read about and consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information found in the Fund prospectus. The prospectus is available from your financial professional, and when you call 800-437-1020 or visit www.aquilafunds.com

Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Investments in bonds may decline in value due to rising interest rates, a real or perceived decline in credit quality of the issuer, borrower, counterparty, or collateral, adverse tax or legislative changes, court decisions, market or economic conditions. Fund performance cold be more volatile than that of funds with greater geographic diversification. For certain investors, some dividends may be subject to federal and state taxes, including the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Consult your professional tax adviser.


Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund Recognized as a Category King


Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund was included in a “Category Kings” report by The Wall Street Journal for the one-year period ending May 29, 2015. The Category Kings report recognizes the top 10 performing funds, based on total return, in 16 Lipper categories for the one-year period. Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund class Y (ATGYX) was listed at #1 in the Lipper Mid Cap Core equity category, out of 384 open-end mutual funds. During this period, the Fund generated a total return of 20.2% compared to the Lipper Mid Cap Core category average of 10.0% and the Russell 3000 Index return of 11.9%. Read more “Aquila Three Peaks Opportunity Growth Fund Recognized as a Category King”


Our Views on the Municipal Bond Market


Supply of Municipal Bonds
Supply and demand continue to drive valuations in the municipal bond market.  Through May, 2015 the supply of municipal bonds picked up dramatically, although as much as 70% of municipal bond issuance represented the refunding of outstanding debt, allowing issuers to take advantage of low rates and reduce debt service costs.  Even with more supply nationally, we saw the market readily absorb the new issuance.  State and municipal new issuance has been limited in recent years, and as a result, the outstanding supply of municipal bonds has not grown significantly, while refinancings have improved the credit profile of many issuers.

Yield and Valuation
Municipal yields remain attractive on a relative valuation basis at 100% to 105% of Treasuries.  As of June 1, 2015, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was 2.19% while the yield on the 10-year Barclays Municipal Bond Index was 2.25%.  Read more “Our Views on the Municipal Bond Market”