What is the difference between buying municipal securities in the “primary” market versus the “secondary” market?
New bond issues are sold in the primary market by the issuer to an underwriter(s) with the issuer receiving the proceeds of the sale. The underwriter(s) then sells the bonds to investors. In a new issue, all of the terms are set, including the initial price and interest rates. Primary market issues are accomplished by one of two sale methods:
Competitive sale: A competitive sale of bonds operates like a blind auction. Broker-dealers acting as underwriters or syndicates of underwriters bid against each other by submitting to the issuer on a given day at a given time a sealed bid to buy the issuer’s bonds and then reoffer them to investors. The underwriter or syndicate of underwriters that submits the lowest interest cost for the bonds in a bid that is compliant with the terms of the bid are awarded the competitive bid.
Negotiated sale: In a negotiated sale, the terms and price of the bonds are negotiated by the issuer through an agreement with an underwriter or syndicate of underwriters selected in advance of the sale.
A secondary market transaction does not involve the issuer. It is a transaction between two investors – a buyer and a seller. Secondary market transactions involve a brokerage firm which acts either as an intermediary between the buyer and seller, or as a buyer or seller itself. Market conditions, such as prevailing interest rates, supply and demand, and credit quality, among other variables, determine the price, which may differ from the par value or original price on the bond.
Can I buy bonds or notes directly from the State?
The State does not sell bonds or notes directly to investors.
What steps do I take to buy bonds or notes in a negotiated primary market sale?
Step 1 - Have or establish a brokerage account
You must have an account with one of the brokerage firms participating in the bond or note sale. Bonds and notes cannot be purchased directly from the State. If you do not have an account at one of the participating firms, you may open one and purchase bonds or notes during the designated order period. (If you have a brokerage account, go to Step 2.)
Investors are encouraged to begin the New Account process well in advance of the sale. Depending on the firm, the brokerage firm’s new account procedures may take some time to process.
Each firm has its own requirements for opening an account. The State does not endorse any particular brokerage firm. Additionally, the State does not guarantee that any one of these firms will open an account for an investor.
Step 2 - Learn about the bonds or notes
Bonds or notes can only be offered through an Official Statement (OS). A Preliminary Official Statement (POS) is the pre-sale offering document for the bonds that is prepared for a particular transaction or bond sale. The POS discloses security features, credit ratings, economic, financial, and legal information as well as information on the types of projects being financed and other information you may find important to help you make an informed investment decision. A POS does not contain information determined on the pricing date of the bond sale (interest rates, maturity amounts, etc. . .).
An OS contains pricing data in addition to all of the information contained in the POS. The OS is typically not finalized until after the results of the bond sale or “pricing.” As a result, the OS discloses the results of the bond sale such as interest rates, and maturity structures. Before purchasing the bonds, you should conduct your own due diligence by reading the POS and OS for that bond issue.
Step 3 - Place your order to buy bonds or notes
Contact the broker with whom you have an account, either online or by phone, to get more information about how to buy bonds or notes during the designated order period.
What is a Retail Order Period?
A retail order period is a special, designated order period in a negotiated sale during which only retail investors may place orders for bonds. The retail order period allows retail investors to place orders prior to institutional investor orders. Occasionally, a separate retail order period is not offered for a particular bond sale, so both retail and institutional investors place orders at the same time. When this occurs, retail investors will often, but not always, receive priority.
Who can participate in the Retail Order Period?
“Retail investors” are typically defined to include individuals as well as bank trust departments, investment advisors and money managers acting on behalf of individuals. Orders from California residents are typically given priority over residents from other states. Individuals may place orders directly with a broker, or they may have a bank trust department, investment advisor, or money manager place the order on their behalf.
What is the Retail Order Period process?
The retail order period for negotiated bond sales typically occurs one day before the official bond pricing.
During the retail order period, retail investors can submit priority orders through their broker. Bonds cannot be purchased directly from the State.
Brokers submit investors’ orders for bonds in specific amounts and maturity dates based on approximate interest rates and prices.
Once the bond sale is completed, usually the day after the retail order period, interest rates and prices are finalized.
Retail investors are notified of the status of their order and the final interest rates and prices for the bonds. (Note: The ability to fill retail orders depends on the amount of bonds available and the amount of orders.)
Investors who submit an order for bonds during the retail order period have the right to change, or cancel, their order until the order has been confirmed after final pricing.
Individuals are encouraged to consult with their broker prior to the retail order period to learn more about the firm’s process for participating in retail order period for the State’s bond sales.
Before placing an order, investors are advised to read the entire POS for the specific bond sale to obtain information essential to the making of an informed investment decision.
What are the advantages for Retail Investors by placing an order during the Retail Order Period?
Purchasing bonds during the retail order period provides certain advantages to retail investors such as:
They get priority in placing orders before institutional investors, such as mutual funds or insurance companies.
They earn the same return on their investment as other investors who buy bonds with the same CUSIP during the primary offering.
They do not pay the upfront brokerage fee/commission. (Individuals should check with their broker to learn about any other transaction or account maintenance fees the firm may charge.)
Why isn’t the interest rate posted before a bond sale?
The final interest rate for negotiated bond sales is not decided until after the end of the order period. However, during the order period, your broker will be able to provide you with preliminary interest rates. Final interest rate results will be posted approximately one day after the pricing and may be found on BuyCaliforniaBonds.com on the Bonds page.
What is a refunding bond?
A refunding bond is a bond issued to refinance outstanding bonds generally to reduce the issuer’s interest costs.
What is a notice of defeasance?
A notice of defeasance is notification to the bond holder that the lien on the pledged revenues in accordance with the terms of the bond issue has terminated. A notice of defeasance usually occurs after the issuer has provided for the deposit of funds into an escrow fund equal to all future payments owed on the bonds being defeased either to the scheduled maturity date or to an earlier redemption date. If you would like more information contact the State Treasurer’s Office, Investor Relations at (800) 900‑3873.
What are the key features of State municipal securities?
Interest Rate - The State pays interest to investors in exchange for the use of the borrowed money. The interest rate is a percentage of the principal (the amount borrowed), payable for the use of the borrowed money. Interest on bonds with fixed interest rates typically is compounded and paid semiannually. Interest on bonds with variable interest rates is payable at a rate that changes periodically based on specified criteria and is typically paid monthly.
Price - The price is the amount investors are willing to pay based on certain variables, including current market yields, supply and demand, credit quality, maturity, and tax status. Keep in mind that prices and yields move in opposite directions. When market yields increase, the value of a bond decreases, and vice versa.
Yield - The yield generally refers to the return an investor earns on the bond, taking into account the price the investor paid for the bond, which may differ from the face value or par amount of the bond. The yield is calculated in two ways: based on the market price and interest rate; or by taking into account a number of other factors, including maturity date, optional redemption date(s), and the time between interest payments. Investors should consult their brokers or other financial advisors to learn more about yield and the different ways to measure it.
Maturity - Maturity is the date when the principal on a particular bond is scheduled to be repaid to the investor. The State generally sells bonds that have maturities between 1 and 30 years. In general, the further out the maturity date, the higher the yield on the bond.
Redemption Provisions - Some bonds contain provisions that allow the State to redeem, or “call,” all or a portion of the bonds, at specific prices, prior to their maturity dates. Bonds frequently are called when interest rates are lower than when the State originally sold the bonds. Bonds with certain redemption provisions usually offer investors higher yields to compensate for the risk that the bonds might be called early. When the State calls a bond, it pays the bondholder the principal amount being called plus any interest earned since the last interest payment to the redemption date. However, the holder does not typically receive the interest that would have been earned if the bond had been allowed to reach its maturity date. Holders of bonds that have been called for redemption are notified of upcoming payment. Investors can find out if their State bond has been called by visiting the State Treasurer's website or by contacting Investor Relations at (800) 900-3873. Investors should have their CUSIP (Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures) number – a unique identifying number – available when inquiring.
Creditworthiness - Most municipal bonds are rated by one or more of the three major rating agencies: Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, and S&P Global Ratings. A credit rating is an independent assessment of the creditworthiness of the bonds. An explanation of the significance and status of credit ratings may be obtained from the rating agencies furnishing such rating. For more information about credit ratings, the current ratings for the State’s GO bonds and a history of the State’s GO bond ratings, please visit the State Treasurer's website.
What does it mean when a bond or note is tax-exempt?
Tax-exempt means that, in the opinion of legal counsel, the interest earned on the bond or note is exempt from federal income taxes; and, typically from California personal income taxes as well. Investors should consult their brokers, financial advisors, or tax advisors to obtain comparisons between tax-exempt California municipal bonds or notes and taxable investment alternatives. Not all State bonds are tax-exempt. For additional information about the tax status of a particular offering, read the “Tax Matters” section of the POS or OS.
What does it mean when a bond or note is taxable?
Taxable bonds are subject to federal income tax. While most State of California GO bonds are issued as tax-exempt bonds, certain bond issues do not meet all of the rules for federal tax exemption. In this situation, the State issues taxable GO bonds. The interest income on taxable GO bonds is still often exempt from State of California personal income tax. Investors should consult their tax advisors for specific guidance regarding the tax treatment of their investment. For additional information about the tax status of a particular bond offering, read the “Tax Matters” section of the POS or OS.
What are some benefits of purchasing municipal securities?
Municipal bonds can be an important part of a diversified investment portfolio. Because bonds typically have a predictable stream of payments of principal and interest, many people invest in them to preserve and increase their capital, or to receive dependable interest income. Additionally, the interest earned on municipal securities typically is exempt from federal and state income taxes.
It is important to remember that investment objectives, and the best strategies for achieving those objectives, depend on an individual investor’s particular circumstances. The tax advantage investors reap from tax-exempt securities will vary according to their income level. For more information please contact your tax advisor.
What are some risks involved in investing in municipal securities?
Credit Risk - Risk that the issuer is unable to pay scheduled principal and interest on a timely basis. To evaluate the credit quality of a bond issue, review the POS of the offering, which contains detailed financial information of the issuer and credit of the bonds.
Interest Rate Risk - When interest rates decrease, bond and note prices increase, and when interest rates increase, bond and note prices decrease. Interest rate risk is the risk that changes in interest rates may reduce (or increase) the market price of a security. For investors who hold a bond or note until its maturity, interest rate risk is not a concern.
What if I want to sell my municipal securities prior to maturity?
Most municipal securities may be sold prior to maturity with the assistance of a brokerage firm. If an investor sells a municipal security prior to maturity, he or she may receive more or less than the original investment depending on prevailing market interest rates, supply and demand, perceived credit quality of the securities, and the costs incurred in connection with the sale, among other variables. In addition, investors should consult a tax advisor for any tax implications.
How do I obtain an Official Statement for a bond?
Official Statements may be obtained by contacting the State Treasurer’s Office Investor Relations at (800) 900-3873 or by visiting the EMMA (Electronic Municipal Market Access) website.