Municipal securities, or "munis," are bonds issued by states, cities, counties and other governmental entities to raise money to build roads, schools and a host of other projects for the public good.
Munis pay a specified amount of interest (usually semiannually) and return the principal to you on a specific maturity date. Most munis are sold in minimum increments of $5,000 and have maturities that range from short term (2 – 5 years) to very long term (30 years).
Muni Price and Disclosure Information
On January 31, 2005, investors gained the ability to see municipal bond prices in real time when the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) began making intraday pricing information available for all municipal bond trades.
Price data is available to investors and dealers alike at SIFMA's website. This information is also accessible on the left navigation of all pages of FINRA's Smart Bond Investing.
You can buy and sell municipal notes or bonds at issue or in the secondary market through the roughly 2,200 banks and brokerages registered to trade municipal securities. In spite of newly improved pricing transparency, be prepared to shop around for the best price, with different dealers often quoting you much different prices for the same bond.
The MSRB currently makes official statements and other muni bond disclosures available to the public for free through its Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website. Ongoing disclosures submitted by issuers are available to the public for free through EMMA, along with real-time trade pricing and up-to-date interest rate information on variable rate and auction rate securities.
When considering an investment in municipal bonds, bear in mind that no two municipal bonds are created equaland carefully evaluate each investment, being sure to obtain up-to-date information about both the bond and its issuer. For more information, see FINRA's Investor Alert Municipal BondsStaying on the Safe Side of the Street in Rough Times.