Pity the poor municipal bond fund managers. Every few years, they are called on to defend the sector in the face of worries about a debacle in the muni market.

This is another of those times. Among the reasons that bears are wary of the muni market: Detroit's default last summer, Puerto Rico's looming (as of mid-January) downgrade, Illinois' mounting pension obligation and the Federal Reserve's decision to begin tapering its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program. The S&P Municipal Bond Index was down 2.3% for the year that ended on Jan. 7 - ouch.

Subscribe Now

Access to premium content including in-depth coverage of mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(K)s, 529 plans, and more.

3-Week Free Trial

Insight and analysis into the management, marketing, operations and technology of the asset management industry.