8 Numbers to Know on Municipal Debt, Public Pensions

By FeaturesFOXBusiness

Nearly every American is somehow affected by the $3.7 trillion municipal debt market. And millions of Americans will rely on public pensions for retirement. Here's a look at some of the key figures impacting the two markets.

Read more on the Mounting American Pension Crisis here.

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1. Size of the Municipal Debt Market: $3.7 Trillion

Investors hold approximately $3.7 trillion in municipal debt, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. That compares to just $20 billion in 1945, $66 billion in 1960 and $361 billion in 1981.

Source: http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/municipalsecurities.shtml

2. Municipal Bonds Outstanding: One Million

There were more than one million different municipal bonds outstanding in 2011, compared to fewer than 50,000 corporate bonds, the Securities and Exchange Commission reported. The principal value of that debt is $3.7 trillion, compared to $11.5 trillion in corporate bonds and $22.5 trillion in corporate equities.

Source: http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/municipalsecurities.shtml

3. Average Municipal Default Rate: 4.6 Per Year

The average rate of defaults on municipal bonds rated by Moody’s Investors Service was 4.6 per year between 2008 and 2012. That rate was a milder 1.3 per year between 1970 and 2007. Moody’s notes the “numbers are small,” given the company has roughly 16,000 U.S. public finance ratings.

Source: https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-Municipal-bond-defaults-have-increased-since-financial-crisis-but--PR_272561

4. Employees Covered by State, Local Pensions: 27 Million

More than 27 million employees and beneficiaries are covered by state and local pensions, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Source: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589043.pdf

5. State and Local Public-Employee Retirement Systems: 3,418

There are roughly 3,400 public-employee retirement systems at the state and local levels, according to a 2009 report from the U.S Census Bureau. There are only 222 state-administered systems, but they account for 89.8% of total membership. Meanwhile, systems administered at the municipal level come in at 6.2% and  county-administered systems rank at 2.9%.

Source: http://www2.census.gov/govs/retire/2009summaryreport.pdf

6. Total Holdings of State, Local Public-Employee Retirement Systems: $3 Trillion

U.S. state and local public employee retirement systems had some $3 trillion in total cash and investment holdings in 2011, according to the U.S Census Bureau, up by $351.9 billion from the year prior.

Source: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/governments/cb12-213.html

7. Unfunded Liabilities Across Public Pensions: $4-$4.4 Trillion

Pension funds racked-up between $4 trillion and $4.4 trillion in unfunded liabilities in 2011, according to an estimate by Joshua Rauh, a professor of finance at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Source: http://kelloggfinance.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/shortfall-for-state-and-local-pension-systems-today-over-4-trillion/

8. Proportion of Municipal Securities Owned by Households: 50.2%

Households directly owned 50.2% of municipal debt, and owned up to 25% through mutual, money market, closed-end and exchange-traded funds as of the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Here’s a full breakdown:

-Household Direct: 50.2%

-Mutual Funds: 14.5%

-Insurance Companies: 12.4%

-Money Market Funds: 7.9%

-Commercial Banks: 7.6%

-Foreign Holdings: 2.2%

Closed End Funds: 2.2%

-Other: 2%

-Brokers & Dealers: 0.8%

*Will not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Source: http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/municipalsecurities.shtml

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