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BOND REPORT: Treasury Yields Move Lower, Extending February Trend

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02/17/2017 | 07:54pm CET

By Ryan Vlastelica

Trading could be quiet ahead of the holiday

U.S. Treasury yields ticked lower on Friday, extending their month-to-date decline.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped 3 basis pints to 2.42%, while the two-year note shed 1 basis point to 1.19%. The yield on the 30-year bond was 3.02%, a move of 2 basis points.

Bond prices and bond yields move in the opposite direction.

Government bonds also were drawing bids as equity investors took a breather following what has been a brisk run to fresh records for U.S. equity benchmarks. That ascent stalled out on Friday, with investors looking to pick up assets considered havens, like Treasurys, as the S&P 500 index threatened to pull back a second straight session.

For the week, the 10-year Treasury rose 0.041 percentage points in the largest one-week gain since Jan. 20. The yield has gained in four of the past five weeks, as is the yield for the 30-year Treasury, which is up 0.039 percentage points this week. The two-year yield, which has risen in three of the past four weeks, is up 0.013 percentage points over the past five sessions.

That said, overall trading action could be subdued in bonds going into a holiday, with the Treasury market closed on Monday for Presidents Day. A light schedule for data will similarly leave bonds without a pronounced market driver.

"It's a low-event day in the market, and bonds are in a reactionary mode ahead of the holiday and what will likely be a lightly attended market next week in terms of trading," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets. "However, there is still uncertainty over government tax policy, the Trump administration's remaining political capital, and the opposition that any of his policy proposals will face. That has layered in a meaningful bid of uncertainty in the market."

Treasurys have lately been driven by inflation expectations. On Wednesday, data showed that inflation had surged by the largest amount in four years , though this was mostly due to the price of gasoline, as opposed to core inflation. Typically, when inflation is seen rising, bond investors demand a higher yield to account for the corrosive impact of higher prices on real returns.

That data helped to give Treasury yields a fifth straight positive session, the longest streak of gains since mid-December. The move lower in bond prices was exacerbated by Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, who on Tuesday said that waiting too long to raise interest rates would be "unwise," which some analysts interpreted as increasing the odds for a rate increase in March.

Anticipation of higher rates tend to encourage selling in bonds, with the expectation that newly issued bonds will offer more attractive yields. But Treasury yields haven't moved much, which may suggest that Wall Street, after being jolted by Yellen's early hint of future hikes, doesn't think a rate increase is likely. The market is pricing in a roughly 18% probability of an interest-rate increase in March, after being around 30% earlier in the week.

In European markets, the yield on the 10-year German bund , considered the benchmark for European government bonds, fell 5.0 basis points to 0.30%. The French 10-year bond yielded 1.04%, gaining 2.8 basis points. The yield on the Italian 10-year bond rose 2.7 basis points to 2.17%.

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