Individuals own ~ 72% of all U.S. municipal debt; individual ownership exceeds any other financial asset class except for U.S. stocks (source: WSJ, June 2014). The website Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA), allows investors to compare trade histories of bonds with similar characteristics.
Web users can see a graphical display of what others are paying for a particular bond on any given day. Users can enter the 9-digit alphanumeric code that identifies a specific bond and then search for other bonds with the same maturity date, repayment source, and interest rate.
In 2012, 11 companies started EMMA with the objective of making the tax-free marketplace more transparent. The marketplace remains opaque because there is no centralized collection or continuous dissemination of bid/ask quotes.
16 Worst Years for Bond Investors
The 16-year period from 1996 through 1981 is often cited as the worst for government bond total returns—largely because yields on med-term Treasurys nearly tripled. Still, over this period, these bonds had an annualized return of 5.8% (source: Ibbotson).