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Roubini Firm Predicts Muni Bond Bust Spread Over 5 Years

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Roubini Global Economics issued a report on Monday that theorized muni bonds were in for a fall—a big fall, to the tune of some $100 billion—over the next five years, as state and local governments default on obligations.

The report, by the financial analysis firm co-founded by Nouriel Roubini, echoes a forecast by Meredith Whitney, who predicted that the muni market would suffer broad collapse, although Roubini’s firm is not quite so pessimistic.

The Guardian reported that mutterings of “Pollyannaish" investors and “Cassandras predicting another 'sub-prime' disaster" punctuated the report by David Nowakowski and Prajakta Bhide, the report's authors, who went on to say that the problems would not be "systemic in nature" or "infect the financial system, though they will dampen economic recovery."

Such comments seem to be damning the situation with faint praise, as the report goes on to discuss such scenarios as more than $7 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities and retirement benefits; recessionary cutbacks and overspending; and the toll such deficits will exact on agencies, municipalities, and local governments.

Still, Whitney had predicted some "hundreds of billions" in defaults in 2011, with state and local governments unable to meet obligations; the Roubini report theorizes a longer timeline and a less systemic collapse.

However, it did say that, whether isolated or not, such defaults will slow the economy as municipalities attempt to "pay for past promises," since, as it also points out, "State and local spending is $1.8tn, or one-eighth of US GDP, and employs over 19 million individuals, almost 15% of non-farm employment. Some 268,000 government jobs have been lost at the state and local level in the past year, despite federal assistance."