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Mar 25, 2014

Property tax revenues highest in more than 20 years -U.S. Census

WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) – Property tax revenues for
U.S. states and local governments reached a record high in the
final quarter of 2013, according to Census data released on
Tuesday showing the housing recovery is finally reaching school
districts and cities’ budgets.

According to the Census, total property tax revenues in the
fourth quarter were $182.76 billion, the highest quarterly
amount on records going back to 1992. That was also about 3
percent more than the $177.7 billion in the fourth quarter of
2012. Most property taxes, 98 percent, are collected by local
governments.

Mar 10, 2014

U.S. public pensions need more than investment windfall

By Tim Reid and Lisa Lambert

(Reuters) – Double-digit annual returns for most U.S. public pension systems over the past two years have done little to shrink the yawning deficits facing many of them after a decade of inadequate funding, according to analysts and recent data.

Thanks to a robust stock market, most systems have enjoyed windfalls recently, with investment returns far exceeding projections. Even so, many are still struggling with shortfalls. In some cases, they have worsened as state contributions fail to keep pace with what is needed to pay beneficiaries.

Mar 6, 2014

Puerto Rico says $3 bln bonds will price Tuesday

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) – Puerto Rico has confirmed
next Tuesday as the tentative pricing date for its $3 billion
general obligation bonds, a sale that will be geared to large
institutional buyers.

In preliminary deal documents released on Thursday, the
territory said the bonds will follow a sinking schedule with
maturities ranging from 2022 to 2035 and make interest payments
every January and July.

Mar 6, 2014

Individuals flee shrinking U.S. municipal bond market

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Individual investors have been fleeing the U.S. municipal bond market for more than a year, and data released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday shows they now hold the smallest amount of the debt in more than seven years.

The household sector held $1.62 trillion in municipal bonds in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with $1.647 trillion in the previous quarter. That was the lowest since $1.58 trillion in the first quarter of 2006.

Mar 5, 2014

Puerto Rico warns of risks to bond buyers, including restructuring

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Puerto Rico is being careful to make investors aware of all the possible risks lurking in its upcoming massive bond sale, including the chance the U.S. territory could pursue emergency measures akin to filing for bankruptcy.

A draft of the bond issue’s preliminary offering statement that was posted on the Internet by Stone & Youngberg, a division of one of the deal’s underwriters Stifel Nicolaus, warns a variety of fiscal and economic challenges “may place the Commonwealth in a position where it may be unable to honor its obligation to pay principal of and interest on the bonds in full or in a timely manner.”

Mar 5, 2014

Funding – and returns – for U.S. public pensions improve

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) – Swelling investment returns
improved funding for U.S. public pensions last year, but almost
all retirement systems are still in weak shape and unable to
cover their liabilities fully, according to a report released by
Wilshire Consulting on Tuesday.

In the annual study provided to Reuters, Wilshire estimated
134 state retirement systems had enough assets to cover 75
percent of their obligations in the year ended June 30, 2013, up
from 72 percent in 2012. Still, 96 percent of those plans were
considered underfunded, with an average ratio of 70 percent.

Feb 28, 2014

Sales of US municipal bonds plunge in February

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) – U.S. cities, states, and
authorities this month sold the smallest amount of municipal
bonds for February in 14 years as refinancing slowed to a
trickle, Thomson Reuters data released on Friday showed.

Altogether, there were 622 deals totaling $14.1 billion, the
lowest par amount for the month since February 2000. It was also
the lowest monthly issuance since January 2011.

Feb 26, 2014

Puerto Rico bonds do the unexpected: Rally

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The $3.7 trillion U.S.
municipal bond market has been stunned by what would have been
unthinkable a few months ago: Puerto Rico debt is rallying.

Credit spreads on the troubled territory’s bonds are
shrinking. Yields on its general obligation bonds in the
secondary market are falling. And all this is happening against
the backdrop of events that should make the bonds radioactive to
buyers. Most notably, the three rating agencies cut Puerto
Rico’s credit score to junk earlier this month.

Feb 14, 2014

A romantic night awaits ‘House of Cards’ binge-watching couples

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – On this Valentine’s Day, some couples will enter a committed relationship, but it might end up lasting a mere 13 hours.

That’s the time it would take to binge-watch the 13 episodes of the second season of “House of Cards,” the Emmy Award-winning political thriller from Netflix Inc released on the online streaming service on Friday.

Feb 11, 2014

Puerto Rico looks to borrow amid financial turbulence

Feb 11 (Reuters) – Puerto Rico said on Tuesday it plans to
issue general obligation bonds to refinance debt and ease its
liquidity crunch, but the island did not offer details as to its
timing or how much debt it plans to sell.

The U.S. territory, which has $70 billion in tax-free debt
outstanding, is mired in a multi-year recession. It has been
downgraded to junk status by all three major U.S. credit rating
agencies in the last week and is struggling to avoid default.