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Money fund turmoil spotlights New Jersey portfolio's 'shadow price'

BOSTON, March 24 (Reuters) - A New Jersey municipal money-market fund run by BNY Mellon Corp is still paying investors $1.00 a share, even though the mark-to-market price of the fund recently dropped to $0.9968 per share, analysts said on Tuesday.

It is not unusual for money-market fund prices to fluctuate from their $1-per-share stable net asset value (NAV).

But the $51 million General New Jersey Municipal Money Market Fund is the only money fund, as of Tuesday, that had to disclose a material decline in its market value NAV, according to disclosures with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Coronavirus-led turmoil in debt markets is putting extra downward pressure on money fund mark-to-market values, or shadow prices, said Pete Crane, president of money fund research firm Crane Data LLC.

After the 2007-2009 financial crisis, the SEC put in rules that require funds to disclose a relatively big downward move in shadow price. It serves as a pre-notification that a fund is potentially heading in the direction of breaking the buck, even though it has not.

The disclosure is triggered if a shadow price falls below $0.9975 a share.

The shadow price NAV of the General New Jersey Municipal Money Market Fund, for example, deviated enough from its $1.00 stable NAV that it required BNY Mellon on Monday to file a material event disclosure with the SEC. The fund’s shadow NAV fell as low as $0.9968 per share on Friday. The market NAV has since recovered to $0.9987.

But the fund was never breaking the buck, Crane and other analysts in the industry said.

As long as a money fund’s per-share shadow price remains in the range of $0.9950 to $1.1050, the fund can price its portfolio at a stable $1 NAV. And that means investors still receive $1 per share on their $1-per-share investment.

Shadow prices are used by the money market fund industry to show that per-share market value of a portfolio can fluctuate. Shadow prices are expected to closely track, or shadow, the stable $1 per share NAV.

The shadow price reflects the current market value of the securities the fund owns, rather than the amortized cost of those securities. SEC rules permit a money market fund to value its securities at cost and spread out, or amortize, any discounts given or premiums paid on the securities when the fund acquired them. (Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; editing by Jonathan Oatis)