Summary: The S&P National AMT-Free Municipal Bond Fund (MUB) is a solid choice for a passively managed municipal bond fund.
Commentary: The MUB ETF is the largest municipal bond ETF and a good way to get exposure to the municipal bond market at a price which is less than almost all actively managed municipal bond funds. The fund is currently paying out around 1.80% per year in income. Keep in mind however that this is before taxes. For investors in the 35% tax bracket that equates to a taxable equivalent yield 2.77%. To see what it would be for other tax brackets use our municipal bond calculator.
If interest rates rise by 1%, the MUB ETF will tend to lose about 6% of its value. Its duration of 6.58 is about average for intermediate term municipal bond funds.
Fees: Good Compared to active municipal bond funds, and on absolute basis, the annual expense fee of 0.25% is tiny. For passively managed funds the MUB ETF’s expense ratio is about average. You can learn more about bond ETF fees here.
Tracking: Excellent Over 3 and 5 year time periods, more than 99% of the MUB ETF’s performance can be attributed to changes in the index it tracks (The Barclays Intermediate Term Municipal Bond Index). The index it tracks does a good job tracking the US investment grade municipal bond market.
However, the index does restrict its holdings to issues which were at least $100 Million or larger at the time of original issue. It therefore does not give exposure to smaller municipal bond issues.
Liquidity: OK The MUB ETF is the largst bond ETF with over $3 billion dollars in assets. The size of the fund is large enough to ensure that there is an active market for buying and selling shares. However, just because there are lots of buyers and seller does not mean that the ETF does not sell at a premium or discount to its NAV. As municipal bonds are hot right now, the price can be over 1% higher than its underlying NAV. This is a problem which is native to all municipal bond etfs, and MUB does a good job of handling it. Learn why bond ETFs sometimes do not track their NAV here.