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.

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