U.S. muni yield indexes may soon be posted on EMMA website

WASHINGTON Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:44pm EST

WASHINGTON Jan 28 (Reuters) - Indices and other benchmarks used for pricing debt in the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal bond market, for which investors and traders often pay, may soon appear on the free public website known as EMMA.

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board said on Monday it had "agreed to advance a plan to work with the private sector to provide new tools - including one or more yield curves or other market indices - to help market participants better assess trading activity."

The board, a self-regulatory organization made up of bankers, issuers and advisers, writes the rules that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforces. It also operates EMMA, or Electronic Municipal Marketplace Access, a centralized repository of market information().

Since creating EMMA about five years ago, the board has sought to provide almost all market information that the public could access for free. The addition of the municipal yield curves will take the site one step further by giving retail investors free access to information on price levels in the secondary bond market.

In a call with reporters, MSRB Chair Jay Goldstone said the board could post the yield curves "in maybe the next quarter."

"It's all about transparency and trying to provide the investor community and the issuer community with more and more information and data as they're trying to make decisions," he said. "It's not something the MSRB is owning. It's sort of like when we're posting the ratings from the rating agencies."

MSRB Executive Director Lynnette Kelly said the board was working with "private vendors" about posting their products on EMMA, but is not ready to announce which companies will participate.

"This was all articulated in the long-range plan that we put out a year ago. This is the next logical step," she said.

Municipal Market Data, a Thomson Reuters company that publishes a widely used daily scale of yields, is "always speaking with the MSRB and the market on ways to support industry objectives," said Kate Reid, a spokeswoman. She did not offer details.

During an August roundtable the board held with 10 index providers, "they were asking who would give their data to the MSRB and a couple of people said, 'We'll give you something,'" said Thomas Doe, chief executive officer of Municipal Market Advisors, the other major provider of data on yields in the secondary market.

"But there was nothing coordinated at the time," he said, adding that his firm has not been contacted by the board on the issue since then.

Doe expressed reservations about both distributing his company's product on EMMA and about giving retail investors a wide range of yield curves, as that could be confusing.

Still, he said the firm is open to working with the board.

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