HJ Sims Secures $41.9M of Bank Financing for Expansion Project and Refinancing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Tara Perkins, AVP | 203-418-9049 | tperkins@hjsims.com

HJ Sims Secures $41.9M of Bank Financing for Expansion Project and Refinancing

FAIRFIELD, CT– HJ Sims (Sims), a privately held investment bank and wealth management firm founded in 1935, is pleased to announce the successful closing of a May 2021 financing in the amount of $41.89MM for Sunset Retirement Communities (Sunset), a multi-campus not-for-profit senior living provider located in Michigan.

In 2009, Sunset embarked on development of Waterford Place, completing the campus in 2015. In 2020, Sunset pursued phase three, including the addition of 62 independent living apartments, 20 villas and amenity spaces. Sims was engaged to identify the optimal capital structure for Sunset’s project financing, while reviewing existing bank debt.

The market study for phase three (completed in March 2020) supported the need for the expansion. COVID-19 slowed down pre-sales and created a need for management to focus on existing operations. After approaching potential lenders in May 2020, Sunset’s management team delayed the financing. However, Sims continued to work with Sunset, exploring capital structures. With its strong balance sheet and foundation support, Sunset moved forward with development of the 20 villas and self-funded construction costs.

During Autumn 2020, Sims re-analyzed financing options for Sunset’s apartment expansion and existing debt. Hefty termination costs associated with an existing long-term swap limited the number of viable refinancing options. Sims identified a new commercial banking partner that would finance the apartment project and replace one of the lenders.

In order to minimize Sunset’s long-term cost of capital and avoid large forward starting swap premiums, Sims worked with the lending partner to allow for the new money long-term bond proceeds to be drawn first such that the forward swap could take effect in just five months. By drawing the long-term proceeds first, Sunset has time to secure proceeds from strategic initiatives, which will be applied to project costs before any draws on the short-term bond proceeds. This allows Sunset to further minimize its funded interest costs during construction. 

On May 12, 2021, Sims closed the Series 2021 financing for Sunset, which included three unique tranches of debt:

  • $13.40M of Series 2021A Bonds, partially refunding Series 2014 debt and enabling Sunset to avoid any disruption or incurring a greater cost of capital.
  • Up to $9.90M of Series 2021B Bonds, funding construction costs associated with the project and minimizing annual debt service burden.
  • Up to $18.59M of Series 2021C Bonds, funding construction costs associated with the project and enabling Sunset to deliver and minimize the overall debt service.

The Series 2021 financing, coupled with management’s prudent strategic decisions, positions Sunset for operational success and growth.

“Pursuing debt financing for an expansion and bank replacement during COVID-19 was challenging, but Sims made it happen. With Lynn Daly and Kerry Moynihan on point, Sims relentlessly pursued every avenue to ensure Sunset was Financed Right®. Sunset is very grateful for the Sims team’s expertise, industry connections and ability to close a deal with the right terms on an aggressive schedule. Sunset could not have picked a better partner. There is no question who our partner will be on future financings,” said Steven Bossenbroek, CFO, Sunset Retirement Communities.

Financed Right® Solutions—Lynn Daly: ldaly@hjsims.com or Kerry Moynihan: kmoynihan@hjsims.com 

ABOUT HJ SIMS: Founded in 1935, HJ Sims is a privately held investment bank and wealth management firm. Headquartered in Fairfield, CT, Sims has nationwide investment banking, private wealth management and trading locations. Member FINRA, SIPC. Testimonials may not be representative of another client’s experience. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Facebook, LinkedIn, TwitterInstagram.

###

Sunset Retirement Communities (May 2021)

Sunset Retirement Communities is a multi-campus not-for-profit senior living provider located in West Michigan. HJ Sims was engaged to identify the optimal capital structure for Sunset’s project financing while also reviewing their existing bank debt with two different banks.

Continue reading

Market Commentary: Foo Fighters

HJ Sims Logo

by Gayl Mileszko

Sunshine and good news abound. Summer-like conditions prevail in many parts of the country as school vacations begin. The FDA has approved a new experimental drug Aduhelm that may help many of the 6 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The FBI’s new crack cyber task force wizards managed to recover more than half of the $4.4 million that Colonial Pipeline paid in ransom to hackers last month. The number of job openings has set a record at 9.3 million as the labor market has started to boom again. Madison Garden is reopening for the first time in 15 months for a full-capacity concert with the Foo Fighters, and Central Park is promoting a mega concert with other big-name performers for late August. The Transportation Security Administration screened 1.98 million air traveling passengers on Sunday, a 15-month high. Weekly hotel occupancy at 61.8% is finally back to where it was in late February 2020. The CDC has just okayed the first two cruise ships to set sail from U.S. ports in late July. Jeff Bezos, his brother, and one lucky guest will board a capsule attached to the reusable rocket Blue Origin on its first 11-minute suborbital tourist flight high above our Earth in July.

We celebrate this new season and rosy outlook, knowing that our globe’s battle against COVID-19 is by no means over. On Sunday, there were 220,684 new cases and 5,230 deaths logged around the world. In the U.S., we had 13,276 new cases and we lost another 225 to this scourge, as the debate rages on as to whether it was man-made via research that was funded with our own tax dollars, or “natural”. Our labor market, in any event, is still 7.6 million below pre-pandemic levels and, on top of precious losses and dark lockdown memories, the impacts will last for years. Struggles in one given sector had ripple effects on many others. There were 544,463 Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcy cases filed in 2020 according to the American Bankruptcy Institute; through May of 2021, another 182,655 were filed. 

The extraordinary fiscal stimulus, resurgence in demand, and ongoing supply disruptions have produced a pickup in inflation (4.2% in April) and what Barron’s described as “The Shortage of Everything” in its May 28 cover story. Lumber prices have increased 340% in the past year, and Americans looking to buy homes should expect to pay over $35,000 more for a newly built house. Tax talk has taken on a new dimension with the G-7 finance ministers’ agreement on a 15% minimum global corporate tax, but – as with the Administration’s domestic proposals – this is by no means a sure thing given the diversity of interests involved. With respect to employment, women have been disproportionately affected by job loss, burnout, and loss of income as they became – and in many cases still remain — full time caretakers and home schoolers. On the health care front, those with conditions who postponed elective procedures and those who did not seek preventive care are slowly returning to the health care system but with more acute care needs. Some who need 24/7 care have yet to enter skilled nursing facilities; occupancy is 13.2 percentage points below the February 2020 level of 84.8%. Many seniors continue to rely on family and friends for assistance with care and medications; occupancy in assisted living communities fell to a record low of 75.5% in the first quarter of 2021. The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), however, reported a small uptick in April.

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago last week published a report funded by NIC on COVID-19’s impact on seniors housing. Contrary to what media headlines would lead seniors and/or their adult children decisionmakers to believe about the safety of congregate facilities, they found that 51% of all properties reported no coronavirus related deaths at all: 67% of independent living communities, 64% of assisted living properties, 61% of memory care communities, and 39% of skilled nursing facilities. In independent living settings, resident deaths were statistically comparable to the rates of death for older adults living in non-congregate settings in the same geographic area.

So far this year, there have been approximately 27 senior living bond issues in the municipal bond primary market for a total combined par value of $1.34 billion. These sales have been for start-ups, expansions and refinancings in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Washington. As one of the nation’s oldest underwriters of tax-exempt senior living bonds, we are upbeat on the future of this sector and look forward to sharing our unique structuring ideas with new and valued banking clients. For our investing clients, we feature an impressive forward calendar of new money and refunding bond deals to discuss with your HJ Sims financial professional.

Since the beginning of March 2020, financial market volatility as measured by the VIX has fallen by 59%. As of this writing, the Dow is up 9,221 points or 36%, the S&P 500 is up 1,272 points or 43%, the Nasdaq has gained 5,314 points or 62% and the Russell 200 has risen by 843 points or 57%. Oil prices are up more than $24 a barrel, or 55%, to $69.23. Gold prices have gained $309 an ounce, or 19%, to $1,895. Silver prices are up 67% or $11 an ounce to $27.90. Bitcoin has skyrocketed by 318% to 35,804. In the bond market, the 2-year Treasury yield has fallen from 0.91% to 0.15%. The 10-year benchmark has, however, risen 42 basis points to 1.56%, and the 30-year long bond is up 57 basis points to 2.24%. The 10-year Baa corporate bond yield is down 6 basis points since the pandemic began.

Municipals remain in somewhat of a world of their own among bonds, performing well above their taxable counterparts given the supply/demand imbalance involving tax-exempt instruments. At this writing, Treasury bonds as measured by the BoAML indices, have a negative YTD return of 3.32%. High grade corporate bonds are down 2.41%, but preferreds are up 1.09%, high yield corporate bonds are up 2.62%, corporate convertible bonds are up 3.09%, and leveraged loans are up 3.10%. Investment grade municipal bonds are up 1.20%, while high yield municipal bonds are returning 4.48%. At the time of publication, the 2-year general obligation bond yield has dropped 64 basis points since the start of the pandemic to 0.09%, the 10- year is up 7 basis points to 0.94% and the 30-year has dropped 8 basis points to 1.44%.

Last week was shortened by the Memorial Day holiday and this week began with a commemoration of the 77th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy when “Foo Fighter” was a term used by Allied pilots to describe mysterious UFOs seen in the skies over the European theater. The corporate bond calendar totaled $27 billion, with $21 billion coming as investment grade, 70% with maturities of seven years or less. High yield new issues came with B2 rated deals in the 5.375% range and CCCs around 7.125%. High yield corporate bonds saw outflows of $385 million while high yield muni funds took in $372 million

This week’s municipal bond calendar will also feature fast moving items that quickly vanish. It will exceed $10 billion and is dominated by $2.65 billion of Kaiser healthcare bonds that may come with taxable, corporate CUSIP and/or municipal series. Among the high yield non-rated deals this week: a $263 million taxable Maryland deal for SSA Baltimore, a $58 million green bond deal for last Stop Recycling in South Carolina, a $51 million issue for New World Prep Charter School in New York, and an $8 million sale for Maranatha Christian Academy in Kansas.

Exclusive Opportunities For Our Clients

Middle Market Success Stories Webinar

HJ Sims Logo

June 2021

Middle Market Success Stories – Learn from the Leaders

Webinar

Session Date & Time: Tuesday, June 29, 2021 from 1:00pm-2:00pm ET

Thought Leadership and Webinar Description:

Join us as we take a critical look at the increasing pressure on senior living providers to meet the demands of the emerging middle market. Learn what the Baby Boomer generation and their families are looking for when exploring their options in the middle market housing and services. During this discussion, we will review and highlight the strategic significance of extending housing offerings to the middle market. While many providers are considering entering in the middle market arena, few have taken the leap due to their inability to find an operating and financial model that ‘works’ with the lower monthly rental rates. We will provide case studies of successful middle market senior housing models to identify key success factors for development, pricing and operating models.

Furthermore, we will hear from two experienced providers (one for-profit and one not-for-profit) who will share how they successfully (and profitably) operate their middle market model with operating expenses low enough to accommodate the moderate-priced rents.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Contemplate the process of identifying the viability of Middle Market products in your region.
  2. Embrace the different operating mentality needed to successfully launch and operate a moderate-priced housing product.
  3. Absorb tangible suggestions from operators who have experience profitably operating middle market products.

Featured Speakers

William Pettit

President, Merrill Gardens

William “Bill” Pettit is the president of the R. D. Merrill Company with responsibility for Merrill Gardens and sister company Pillar Properties. Merrill Gardens is one of the most respected assisted living operators in the country with 70 communities in 20 states. Pillar Properties is an award-winning owner and operator of multi-family housing with 1,700 units in operation and the developer for Merrill Gardens new communities.

Bill joined the R. D. Merrill Company in 1992 after 18 years in the banking industry. He was instrumental in the formation of the company, starting with one community in 1993. He directed the rapid growth and timely execution of acquisitions and developed the policies that speak to the Merrill Gardens and Pillar Properties commitment to quality.

Bill was a 2018 Seattle Business Magazine http://seattlebusinessmag.com/profiles/2018-executiveexcellence-awards-bill-pettit-rd-merrill-company. Executive Excellence Award winner and under his leadership the R. D. Merrill Company was named the http://seattlebuinessmag.com/2016-family-businessawards-business-year-large-firms. Family Business of the Year for its commitment to residents, team members and community service.

Bill received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1971 and a MBA from the University of Oregon in 1973. He was the first senior living executive in residence for Washington State University. He serves on the Argentum Board of Directors and he is the past Chairman of the Executive Board of the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA).

Matthew D. Rule, Esq.

Senior Vice President of Housing Development, President, National Church Residences Investment Corp.

Matt Rule is Senior Vice President of Housing Development at National Church Residences. Matt leads NCR’s acquisitions, development finance, originations, and construction teams. In the past five years his team closed over 30 LIHTC transactions, purchased over 3,000 affordable senior units and closed over $100,000,000 of new market rate senior housing production. In 2015, Affordable Housing Finance (AHF) named Matt as one of six Affordable Housing Young Leaders. Prior to joining NCR, Matt was a transactional attorney at Squire Sanders, LLP (currently known as Squire Patton Boggs) where he served as legal counsel for a variety of low income housing tax credit developers, syndicators, direct investors and lenders. Matt is a graduate from The Ohio State University Michael E Moritz College of Law where he graduated with distinction as Summa Cum Laude, Order of the Coif. Matt is active at Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio and currently serves as the Vice President of the Ohio Housing Council and as a Board Member of the Central Ohio chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In the past he has served as a Board Member the National Affordable Housing Trust (2018-2020), a Board Member of the Upper Arlington Rotary Club (2018-2020), a member of the Upper Arlington Citizen Financial Review Task Force (2019) and as the Chair of the Finance Subcommittee of the Upper Arlington Community Center Feasibility Task Force (2020). Matt is married and has four very energetic children.

  • We would like to provide you with the opportunity to ask questions in advance of the Middle Markets webinar for our panelists to address during their discussion. Please list your question(s) here.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Webinar Save the Date

For more information or if you have any questions regarding the content of this webinar, please contact Lynn Daly at 312.505.5688 or ldaly@hjsims.com, Curtis King at 512.519.5003 or cking@hjsims.com or any HJ Sims banker at 1-800-HJS-1935.

If you have any questions on registering for the webinar, please contact Rebecca Brady at 203.418.9077 or rbrady@hjsims.com.

An Exclusive Investment Opportunity: Benedictine Health System

Benedictine Health System Logo

HJ Sims is pleased to serve as sole underwriter for the upcoming tax-exempt Series 2021 revenue bonds on behalf of Benedictine Health System, a Minnesota  nonprofit corporation, a Catholic healthcare system that  provides long-term care services, congregate housing,  assisted living, rehabilitation services and other health-care and social services.

Benedictine owns, or has a controlling interest in, 23  nursing facilities with 1,815 licensed beds and 26 rental senior housing with services facilities with 1,890 units in five states throughout the Upper Midwest region.

The vision of Benedictine is to create Benedictine Living Communities where health, wellness and choice come to life. The core values of Benedictine are hospitality, stewardship, respect, and justice.

For more information including risks, please read the Preliminary Official Statement in its entirety when it is available. If you have interest in purchasing these bonds, please contact your HJ Sims financial professional as soon as possible.

*Subject to change

No dealer, broker, salesperson, or other person has been authorized to give any information or to make any representation other than those contained in the Preliminary Official Statement and, if given or made, such other information or representation should not be relied upon as having been authorized by the Issuer, the Borrower, or the Underwriters. The information set forth herein has been obtained from the Issuer, Borrower, and other sources that are believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness by, and is not construed as a representation of, the Underwriters. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Under no circumstances shall this constitute an offer to sell or solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction. Any offering or solicitation will be made only to investors pursuant to the Preliminary Official Statement, which should be read in its entirety. Investments involve risk including the possible loss of principal. HJ Sims is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and is not affiliated with Benedictine Health System.

Watermark Retirement Living (May 2021)

Watermark Retirement Communities Logo

Watermark Retirement Living, which manages 65 communities in 21 states with additional communities under development, including CCRC’s, standalone independent living, assisted living and memory care communities in addition to Medicare-certified rehabilitation and skilled nursing neighborhoods, has partnered with ZOM Living, a highly regarded luxury multifamily developer, to develop two luxury senior living communities in South Florida.

Continue reading

Market Commentary: School Daze

HJ Sims Logo

by Gayl Mileszko

Colby College in Waterville, Maine celebrated its 200th commencement on May 23, an event now indelible in the memories of all 513 graduates and the Colby “Mule” families who gathered in person on the Mayflower Hill campus. This past weekend, hundreds of other ceremonies were held on campuses including the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and other venues across the country for scholars receiving doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, associate and high school diplomas. Sadly, at the University of Minnesota and Southern New Hampshire University, it was the second year in a row where the celebrations were virtual due to the pandemic. But festivities went hybrid at Arizona State University, where they hosted in-person outdoor events as well as remote ceremonies in which the commencement speaker appeared as a hologram, graduates participated in the form of robot avatars, and the dean officiated from within a digital rendering of the new headquarters for Thunderbird School of Global Management, still under construction. The Academy of Seminole in Oklahoma graduated its inaugural class of charter school seniors, and Kihei Charter School in Hawaii had one student in its 20th graduating class who simultaneously received her high school diploma and an associate’s degree in electronics and computer engineering technology from the University of Hawaii Maui College. At Arkansas Virtual Academy, an on-line charter school serving K-12 students across the state, both virtual as well as in-person graduations were held in Little Rock for its 300 seniors during National Charter School Week.

Charter schools have been celebrated all year long in the municipal bond market, where $1.28 billion of bonds have been sold since January, 56% more than were issued last year by the end of May. Charter schools looking to borrow in the tax-exempt markets to acquire, expand or refinance facilities generally go through state conduits or local authorities, but in Michigan charter schools may issue debt directly. In Texas, Colorado and Utah, charter school financings are often supported with direct or moral obligation pledges. This week, Life School of Dallas is planning a $94.1 million variable rate refunding rated AAA due to the guarantee from the Texas Permanent School Fund. The Denver School of Science and Technology is also in the market with a $17.7 million Aa3 rated new money issue supported by the state’s Debt Service Reserve Fund Program and the Colorado Charter School Moral Obligation pledge. Federal stimulus has bolstered state school funding levels, keeping the vast majority of public schools on stable financial footing for the time being. And, as we know, borrowing rates are at extreme lows, making property purchases, expansions and refundings most attractive for non-profits and for-profits with big plans for start-ups and growth.

Looking back, the first charter school opened in St. Paul in 1992 with 35 students and, two years later, Congress authorized a federal charter school program. The first charter school bond issue came in 1998 for Concord Academy in Petoskey, Michigan, a $1.3 million financing with a final maturity in 2018 priced at par to yield 7.00%. Since then, issuance has increased almost every year according to Bloomberg, in part reflecting the expanding presence of these schools in the educational system. Today, 44 states have a total of 3.3 million students enrolled. As institutions, the nation’s 7,533 charter schools currently outnumber both our country’s hospitals and our colleges. In New Orleans, 98% of students attend charter schools while in other places like Massachusetts and New York expansion is prohibited by law as caps are imposed on the number of charters allowed. Maine has a statewide cap of 10 but in Iowa, the Governor just signed into law a bill expanding the ability to form more. In Florida, the legislature recently passed a law allowing colleges and universities to issue charters. New Hampshire is utilizing new federal grants to assist in creating charters to assist at-risk students. And in West Virginia, issues surrounding the first charter school application are before the state supreme court.

Since March of 2020, it has been a time of learning loss and disengagement for students from kindergarten to graduate school age. The New York Times described it as “the most disrupted American school year since World War II.” But many charter schools have benefitted from new attention and increased support during the pandemic. Seventy eight percent of North Carolina’s 200 charter schools have reported waitlists. For those charters specializing in on-line or cyber learning, students experienced many fewer issues with instruction and equipment. K12, the largest operator of virtual schools, reportedly saw enrollment grow by nearly 50,000 students. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, charter schools have more freedom over their budgets, staffing, curricula and other operations. It appears that they were able to pivot faster than many other public schools, for example supplying students phones equipped with Wi-Fi or directing funds to parents to pay for mobile hotspots or phones. Other charters provided community-based Wi-Fi access and kept parents and students engaged with academic and personal “wellness checks”.

The terms in many charter contracts with state, university or district authorizers have allowed for night classes, longer classroom hours and longer school years; this flexibility proved critical to many parents looking for better educational options during lockdowns or family relocations. Since a good percentage of charter schools are smaller in size than traditional public schools, they have often proven more nimble in adapting to changing federal and state guidelines and directives. Charter schools were also most notably among the first to re-open to in-classroom learning and this allowed many parents to return to work. For those parents in New York and New Jersey who prefer homeschooling and virtual learning environments, charter schools and private schools may be the only alternatives available to them this coming Fall. For those parents enrolled in one of the 209 Catholic schools that have closed over the past year, charter schools may look very attractive. For ESL and special education students, the student/teacher ratios at charter schools tend to be lower, designed to provide for more personalized attention, the kind that many parents have found invaluable over the past 15 months. Parents have also been keenly attuned to labor issues in discussions over the timing of returns to in-classroom learning. Only a small percentage of charter school teachers are unionized, so strikes such as the one currently threatened at three Urban Prep charter schools in the Chicago area are rare. Charter schools boasting 100% teacher retention this past year deserve every kudo. Nationwide, charter school teachers number 220,000 and student enrollment has doubled since 2011 according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Most schools are self-managed, but some have nonprofit charter management organizations like KIPP, Uplift and IDEA, and others use for-profit educational management organizations like K12Inc, Imagine, and Charter Schools USA.

There are seventeen public elementary and secondary school financings on this week’s $4.6 billion municipal calendar and four with combined par value of $156.9 million are for charter schools. In addition to the Denver and Dallas deals, the Global Outreach Charter Academy in Jacksonville, Florida plans a $24 million non-rated refunding and the Academic Leadership Charter School in the Bronx has an $18.5 million BBB- rated financing. Last week saw $47.8 million of bond issues for BB rated Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and non-rated sales for High Desert Montessori Charter School in Reno, Nevada, Twin Lakes STEM Academy in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and Seven Oaks Classical School in Ellettsville, Indiana. These financings illustrate some of the geographic, credit and programmatic diversity available to investors in charter schools. Global Outreach offers foreign language programs beginning in kindergarten. Academic Leadership offers small group instruction and four periods of daily literacy. Life School students wear uniforms. Seven Generations focuses on sustainable living and environmental stewardship. High Desert, which opened in 2002, offers parents before and after school care for students up to 8th grade for a monthly fee. Twin Lakes is a K-6 charter expanding to 7th and 8th grade in the Fall of 2022. Seven Oaks teaches Latin and, like quite a few charters, does not provide transportation or offer a pre-school program.

Charter schools may serve a specific student population, including those who need to work during the day, those who are homeless, those who seek language immersion, those who are deaf. For investors, recent charter school bond deals have come with maturities in ten to forty years, coupons of 4.00% to 5.25% and yields ranging from 2.65% to 5.25%. But prospective buyers need to do their due diligence on area demographics and local politics, governance, security features, enrollment, retention, fundraising, report cards, wait lists and extracurriculars. The largest charter school network in Texas, IDEA Public Schools, recently fired the CEO and COO in the wake of allegations of widespread fraud for personal enrichment. New Hampshire’s only school district-supported public charter school, PACE Career Academy, is closing on June 7 after 10 years due to shortfalls in funding, fundraising, and staffing; it was founded as an alternative high school for struggling students and last had only 62 enrolled. Data show that those with weak governance, small and declining enrollment, and poor academic performance are more likely to fail. In the last academic year for which statistics are available (2017-2018), a total of 231 charter schools closed while 373 opened. For perspective, we note that charter schools currently account for only 1.2% of the distressed and defaulted municipal bonds reported by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Including charter school financings, muni issuance was $34.2 billion in May bringing year-to-date volume to $169.4 billion, up 7 percent over last year. Taxable issuance accounted for $7 billion of the total. To take advantage of market conditions but adhere to current refunding limitations, approximately 4% of 2021 bonds have been issued with forward settlement dates. The Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Index finished the month 0.30% higher, bringing its year-to-date returns to 0.78%, while the S&P Municipal Bond Index was up 0.40% in May and 0.95% since January. For high yield munis, the Bloomberg Barclays Index is up 4.80% this year after gaining 1.15% in May; the S&P Municipal Bond High Yield Index gained 1.17% last month, raising 2021 return totals to 4.27%. High yield munis have outperformed all other muni sectors and even the red-hot corporate high yield sector at 2.25%, however tax-exempts across the board are increasingly pricier than their taxable counterparts. The yield penalty for individual investors buying an A rated municipal bond versus an A rated corporate bond is 22 basis points as last calculated by CreditSights.

Contributing to muni price inflation is the surge of cash being returned to investors from maturing and called bonds as well as coupon income. There were insufficient opportunities to re-invest the $26 billion of redemptions we saw last month. New issuance failed to keep up with demand and secondary market offerings were mostly limited to low coupon bonds with microscopic yields retreating into negative territory with each new inflation report. This month, $59.7 billion of principal and interest will be available for reinvestment by muni bondholders while the new supply is only expected to total $9 billion. This summer all told, issuers will pay out more than $165 billion, including $124 billion of proceeds from maturing and called bonds and $42 billion in interest. Blackrock sees this tidal wave as producing the largest net negative issuance period in history at negative $54 billion. We note that investors frustrated by the lack of supply of individual bonds have turned to municipal bond mutual funds and ETFs. These funds are, in turn, are pushing prices for the limited supply of mostly rock-bottom yielding bonds available in the primary and secondary even higher. Funds have seen $43 billion of inflows so far this year, the strongest demand through May on records maintained by Lipper since 1992.

Central bank policies have the world suspended in a low rate and negative rate environment for several years now. At present, however, there are no 30-year sovereign yields below zero; only Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands still have 10-year sovereign bonds with negative yields. U.S. Treasury yields have moved within a 20 basis point range these past two months. The 10-year has averaged 1.61% and that is where it stands at this writing, down 13 basis points since the end of March. The 30-year yield has averaged 2.30% and that is just above where it currently stands, down 13 basis points from the close on March 31. The ICE BoAML Treasury Index gained 0.30% in May but year-to-date returns remain negative at -3.52%. The 10-year Baa corporate yield has been moving in a 14 basis point range in either direction and now stands at 3.20%. Investment grade corporate bond indices returned 0.70% last month, but are also negative at -2.68% since January. The 2-year AAA municipal general obligation bond yield at 0.10% has moved within an 8 basis point range, the 10-year yield at 0.90% has dropped 22 basis points and the 30-year at 1.51% has fallen 24 basis points since March 31. During this timeframe, the S&P 500 has gained nearly 6% to close May at 4,204 and the Nasdaq has risen almost 4% to 13,748. Oil prices have closed 7% higher to $66.32, gold is up 11% to $1,906, and silver prices at $28.04 have gained 15%. In overpriced and low yielding markets, we know that speculative activity has been overwhelming investing activity – and in no case has the speculation and volatility been more evident than with cryptocurency. Bitcoin prices at 37,144 have fallen 37% in the last two months but nevertheless remain 30% higher on the year.

Refinitiv Lipper reported $1.46 billion of inflows into municipal bond mutual funds last week; high yield funds took in $813.8 million of that net total. Investment grade corporate bond funds had $911 million of net investment and U.S Treasury bond funds added $980 million while domestic equity funds saw $1.74 billion of outflows and high yield corporate funds had $1.36 billion of net withdrawals. June marks the halfway point in the year, so this is the perfect time to contact your HJ Sims representative to review alternatives to fund investments and discuss any new investment needs, interests and concerns. In particular, we extend congratulations to all recent graduates and invite them to start working with us on a plan for a successful financial future.

Exclusive Opportunities For Our Clients