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Aug 8, 2013

S&P index shows Detroit filing cost market $13.8 bln

WASHINGTON, Aug 8 (Reuters) – Detroit’s filing for the
largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history has cost the
municipal bond market $13.8 billion in the last three weeks, S&P
Dow Jones Indices said in a research note on Thursday.

The S&P Municipal Bond Index, a major benchmark tracking
over $1.4 trillion in bonds, has returned a negative 0.97
percent since the filing on July 18, as bond prices have fallen
and yields have risen, said J.R. Rieger, the company’s vice
president of fixed income indices.

Jul 25, 2013

‘No Bailout’: Senators look to pre-empt U.S. aid to Detroit

WASHINGTON, July 25 (Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S.
Senate want to make sure the federal government does not become
involved in the financial maelstrom hitting Detroit, which filed
for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history last week.

They have proposed at least three “No Bailout” amendments to
spending bills that the Senate is currently considering, all of
which would limit the U.S. government’s ability to help cities
in fiscal crisis.

Jul 18, 2013

Online tax would help U.S. economy: conservative economist Laffer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Legislation to allow U.S. states to collect sales taxes on purchases made online is garnering support from both sides of the political spectrum, with a leading conservative economist saying on Thursday the tax would foster growth and job creation.

Arthur Laffer, a former chief economist at the White House Office of Management and Budget best known for the “Laffer Curve” relating tax rates and revenues, released a study estimating states will lose out on annual revenues of between $27 billion and $33 billion by 2022 without Internet sales taxes.

Jul 16, 2013

U.S. public pensions weaken, but deterioration slowing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The ability of U.S. public pensions to cover their liabilities weakened again, although the deterioration is slowing, two major rating agencies said on Tuesday.

Both Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service added that they expect improvements in pension finances in the near future.

Jul 9, 2013

Senator Hatch says insurance firms can ease U.S. pension crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top Republican senator unveiled legislation on Tuesday that would radically change public pensions by having life insurance companies pay benefits through annuity contracts, helping to alleviate the underfunding that has engulfed many plans.

The bill introduced by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the highest-ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, would have the government pay a premium each year to a state-licensed insurer in an amount equal to a set percentage of salary. Employees would then receive fixed income annuity contracts from the insurance company.

Jun 27, 2013

U.S. public pension assets reach record highs -Census

WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) – The assets held by U.S.
public pension plans have surpassed their pre-recession peaks to
reach record highs, but investment returns for the state and
local retirement systems have slowed from even a year ago even
as benefit costs rise.

For the 100 largest public-employee retirement systems, cash
and security holdings totaled $2.93 trillion in the first
quarter, the highest on records going back to 1968, according to
a U.S. Census report released on Thursday. The previous peak was
just before the financial crisis in the fourth quarter of 2007,
$2.929 trillion.

Jun 25, 2013

U.S. Treasury stands behind cap on municipal bond exemption

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s
administration is still pursuing his proposal to limit the tax
exemption for interest paid by municipal bonds, with a top U.S.
Treasury official on Tuesday saying the agency hopes new debt
programs will allow state and local governments to continue
financing public works.

As part of his push to balance the federal budget, Obama has
repeatedly suggested limiting the rate at which high-income
taxpayers can reduce their liability at 28 percent.

Jun 21, 2013

Maryland, Virginia, D.C. escaped govt spending cuts

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) – Automatic federal spending
cuts known as sequestration have not spawned unemployment in
Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., as many predicted, with
data released on Friday showing that the three places gained
jobs as their unemployment rates dropped over the last year.

According to the Labor Department, Virginia’s unemployment
rate was 5.3 percent in May, compared to 5.9 in May 2012. The
drop was also seen for the District of Columbia, where the rate
was 8.5 percent in May, compared to 9.1 percent the year before.
For Maryland, the rate was 6.7 percent, down slightly down from
6.8 percent in May 2012.

Jun 20, 2013

Talk of interest rate rise rocks U.S. municipal bond market

By Lisa Lambert

(Reuters) – The possibility of rising interest rates rocked the U.S. municipal bond market on Thursday, with prices plunging in secondary trade, investors selling off the debt, money pouring out of mutual funds and issuers postponing nearly $2 billion in new sales.

“The market got crushed,” said Daniel Berger, an analyst at Municipal Market Data, a unit of Thomson Reuters, about the widespread sell-off.

Jun 13, 2013

Despite budget rebound, U.S. states see fiscal threats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Most U.S. states are set to end the current fiscal year in solid financial shape, but their recoveries could be derailed by an array of threats and increasing demands on their spending, according to a survey released on Thursday.

Bringing welcome relief after years of budget shortfalls, states’ revenues have risen steadily over the last year. Many states are set to finish fiscal 2013 “with modest surpluses,” according to a twice-yearly survey of state budgets by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.