Will Municipal Concerns Spike Search Interest, Create Opportunity?

Over on AdvisorTweets.com, financial advisors are expressing a lot of interest in the health of the bond market, municipal bonds in particular. Just this week Wall Street analyst Meredith Whitney warned that as many as 100 U.S. cities and other municipal issuers would default on their debt this year (see her CNBC appearance at the bottom of this post).

It’s led us to wonder about the level of search interest, which we’d think of as a proxy for consumer/investor interest and awareness.

We’re eager to hear what you make of the data below. We think that the advisors are ahead in their focus and that there’s more to come in terms of search interest and, possibly opportunity, for investment companies interested in providing communications leadership.

MunicipalBondSearchesJanuary2011A look at the 12-month picture provided by Google Trends shows that “municipal bond” searches were up toward the end of 2010. And we always like to note how searches track with the volume of news references—in this case, searches climbed in December following a news coverage peak in November.

But back out and look at Google Trends data since 2004 and we see that the 2010 levels don’t approach 2008 search interest. The municipal bond market was out of whack that year, along with everything else, and setting up for a blockbuster 2009.
“Municipal bond”-related news coverage spiked in early 2008 but notice that searches hit their high September-ish, without the benefit of additional heightened news coverage. Searches declined throughout 2009, even as investors rushed into municipal bond funds.

Who was searching "municipal bonds" in 2008? Should we assume that anxiety was driving the interest? Will those searchers be back at the same levels in 2011? What information will they be looking for and what is your firm prepared to provide beyond the business-as-usual tax-free fund messaging?

We welcome your comments below.

Starting with this post, we're experimenting with a WordPress plug-in that greets newcomers and encourages RSS subscription. What do you think? We know from our analytics where visitors come from but is it creepy to lay out a "welcome mat" that acknowledges the referrer?

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