Municipal bond exchange traded funds have been performing quite well over the past few years as investors sought yield options beyond Treasuries. However, muni bond investors should expect lower returns in 2013, according to BlackRock (NYSE: BLK).

Peter Hayes, BlackRock’s head of muni debt, expects municipal bonds to generate lower returns in 2013 than the prior two years, as yields hit a 47-year low, Bloomberg reports. Bond yield and price have an inverse relationship, so a falling yield corresponds with higher prices.

Yields on municipal debt have dropped as investors sought safe-haven diversification beyond Treasuries and a tax-free investment ahead of the federal tax increases. [Muni Bond ETFs Keep Tax-Sheltered Status — For Now]

According to the Bank of America Merrill Lync index, munis gained 18% in the last two years combined, the most since the 2000-2001 period.

Municipal bond investors “have been spoiled with some pretty robust total returns for an asset class that’s not typically known for that,” Hayes said in the article.

Hayes now suggests that investors should avoid longer-maturity bonds and trade lower-rated debt for securities with higher grades.

High-yield municipal bond ETF options include:

  • Market Vectors High Yield Municipal Index ETF (NYSEArca: HYD): 4.66% 30-day SEC yield; up 13.2% over the past year
  • SPDR Nuveen S&P High Yield Municipal Bond ETF (NYSEArca: HYMB): 4.20% 30-day SEC yield; up 14.2% over the past year

Broad municipal bond ETFs include:

  • iShares S&P National AMT-Free Municipal Bond Fund (NYSEArca: MUB): 1.61% 30-day SEC yield; up 2.1% over the past year
  • SPDR Nuveen Barclays Municipal Bond ETF (NYSEArca: TFI): 1.68% 30-day SEC yield; up 4.5% over the past year

For more information on munis, visit our municipal bonds category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.