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Studying the returns of US Treasury, corporate, and municipal (muni) bonds at the index level over 2004-2020, I find a strong turn-of-the-year effect – low December returns and high January returns – in the high-yield muni index. The investment-grade muni index exhibits a similar but weaker effect. High-yield munis is the only class whose December returns are negatively correlated with year-to-date yield changes. Dominance of highly tax-sensitive households who engage in tax-loss selling, combined with opaqueness, low liquidity, and a small role of ETFs in munis make it difficult to arbitrage away the December price decreases. The investment-grade and high-yield corporate bond indices have abnormally high December returns in years with capital losses. The high-yield corporate index also has abnormally high December returns even in years without capital losses. It represents a change from the findings of prior research and suggests that corporate bond investors exhibit contrarian tendencies in December.


This article was originally published in Journal of Economics and Finance (2021).

Available for download on Thursday, June 23, 2022