Bond Buyer 20: An In-Depth Analysis

Bond Buyer 20: An In-Depth Analysis

6 Min.

In the realm of municipal finance, understanding the intricacies of various indices is essential. One such index, the Bond Buyer 20, plays a pivotal role in shaping the municipal bond market. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the heart of Bond Buyer 20, unraveling its meaning, how it operates, and its profound implications for the world of finance.


At its core, Bond Buyer 20 is an index that derives its value from a survey conducted among municipal bond traders. This survey seeks to estimate the yield of a specific portfolio of 20 general obligation bonds. These bonds are unique in that they all mature within a 20-year timeframe. Unlike other financial indices, Bond Buyer 20 does not rely on actual bond prices or yields, making it a distinctive barometer of market trends.

Fundamental Elements of Bond Buyer 20

The Composition of the Index

The Bond Buyer 20 index primarily tracks the average yields of 20 general obligation municipal bonds. These bonds collectively hold an impressive average rating. According to Moody's rating, they are graded as Aa2, while Standard & Poor’s rating designates them as grade AA. The impressive credit quality of these bonds lends the index credibility as a reflection of the municipal bond market's overall health.

Purpose and Origin

This unique index serves as a representation of municipal bond trends. Its foundation lies in a portfolio of 20 general obligation bonds, each with a 20-year maturity. Bond Buyer 20 is distinctively based on a survey conducted among municipal bond traders, setting it apart from indices that rely on actual prices and yields. It is essential to note that the Bond Buyer 20 index is a creation of The Bond Buyer, a reputable daily financial publication that has been a significant player in the finance world.


Bond Buyer 20 is also recognized by other names within the financial sector. It is often referred to as the "GO 20 Index" or the "20 Bond Index."

The Significance of Bond Buyer 20

Understanding the utility and significance of Bond Buyer 20 is critical to appreciating its role in the municipal bond market. This index is essentially a theoretical and estimated average of bond yields. Its primary function is to determine the interest rates for new issues of general obligation bonds.

General obligation bonds, commonly referred to as GO bonds, are municipal bonds that enjoy a unique status. Their interest and principal payment obligations are secured by the financial resources of state or local governments. These governments possess the authority to raise taxes to meet their payment obligations on GO bonds. Consequently, the Bond Buyer 20 index provides a window into the trend in interest rates for these GO bonds.

Yield Estimation

The average yield associated with the Bond Buyer 20 index is not based on actual transactions but is instead drawn from the informed estimates of municipal bond traders. These traders are tasked with estimating the yield that a current coupon bond for each issuer in the indices would produce if the bond were sold at its par value. This estimated yield is invaluable for state and local governments, as it enables them to gauge the maximum interest rate they can offer on new bond issues.

As an illustrative example, the 2020 Florida statutes provide a clear perspective. These statutes stipulate that "bonds may bear interest at a rate not to exceed an average net interest cost rate, which shall be computed by adding 300 basis points to The Bond Buyer '20 Bond Index' published immediately preceding the first day of the calendar month in which the bonds are sold."

The Bond Buyer Index

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Bond Buyer 20 index, it's essential to explore another related index - the Bond Buyer Index. This index provides insights into the average weekly yield of the Bond Buyer 20 Index.

The Bond Buyer Index derives its value from the prices of 40 recently issued and actively traded long-term municipal general obligation and revenue bonds. These prices are meticulously calculated by The Bond Buyer. The value of the index is expressed in points and 1/32ds (thirty seconds), offering a precise snapshot of market conditions.

Bond Buyer's Suite of Indices

The Bond Buyer, the publication responsible for Bond Buyer 20, is not limited to this single index. It offers a suite of indices that cater to various aspects of the municipal bond market. Here are a few noteworthy indices in the Bond Buyer's portfolio:

  • Bond Buyer 11 Index: This index is constructed from a select group of 11 bonds chosen from the larger Bond Buyer 20. The average rating of these 11 bonds is roughly equivalent to Moody's Aa1 and S&P's AA-plus. The Bond Buyer 11 Index serves as a focused indicator of a specific segment of the municipal bond market.
  • Revenue Bond Index (RBI): Focusing on revenue bonds, the RBI provides a unique perspective on the performance of these bonds. Revenue bonds are distinguished by the revenue streams generated from specific projects, such as toll roads or utility facilities.
  • SIFMA Index: The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Index is another benchmark that plays a significant role in the municipal finance arena. It represents the average yield of a broad range of municipal bonds, offering insights into the overall health of the market.
  • Municipal Market Data (MMD) Curve: The MMD Curve, as the name suggests, presents a curve that reflects the yields on various maturities in the municipal bond market. This curve aids market participants in understanding the yield curve and its implications for interest rates.


The Bond Buyer 20 index is a unique and important tool in the municipal finance world. It relies on estimates from bond traders instead of actual prices or yields, which sets it apart. This index focuses on a specific portfolio of 20-year general obligation bonds, providing valuable insights into the municipal bond market. State and local governments use the Bond Buyer 20 index to determine the maximum interest rates for new bond issues. Alongside the Bond Buyer Index, it plays a crucial role in shaping the municipal bond market and helps market participants make informed decisions. The publisher, The Bond Buyer, has greatly contributed to the transparency and efficiency of the municipal finance sector with their suite of indices. Bond Buyer 20 and its companion indices are valuable tools for investors, issuers, and regulators in navigating the municipal finance landscape.

General Obligation (GO) Bond
Municipal Bond
Bond Buyer 20 (BB20)