Book Review: The Fundamentals of Municipal Bonds

The Fundamentals of Municipal Bonds. 2012. Neil O’Hara and SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association).

Reviewed by Richard D. Long, CFA

Recognized as an important primary-level sourcebook on the municipal bond market, The Fundamentals of Municipal Bonds was first published in the 1960s by the Investment Bankers Association of America and has been published since 1982 by SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association). The latest edition — the sixth and the first since 2001 — covers the foundations of the municipal bond market, as well as the major changes and developments in the market since 2001.

In the preface, author Neil O’Hara states, “The U.S. municipal bond market is large and complex with $2.9 trillion outstanding by official estimates. It is also the most diverse and eclectic of the U.S. capital markets. The more than 50,000 issuers range from large states that sometimes borrow $1 billion or more at a time to small, rural communities that may borrow less than $1 million every few years.” This excerpt illustrates the clear, straightforward style that O’Hara uses to describe the unique market of municipal bonds. He knows his subject well and has written a book that is useful both as a good foundation for newcomers to the municipal bond market and as an update for investors already familiar with it. With more than 55 tables and figures, The Fundamentals of Municipal Bonds combines the concepts of a textbook with the resources of an industry reference work.

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