TREASURIES-Bonds firm on fiscal cliff worries, Fed minutes

TOKYO Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:40pm EST

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TOKYO Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasuries were supported in Asia on Thursday, bolstered by investor concerns that protracted gridlock in Washington could cause a budget crisis that would send the economy reeling.

* The yield on 10-year notes stood at 1.593 percent , little changed from late U.S. levels and just above its 10-week low of 1.572 percent hit on Tuesday.

* If the White House and a divided Congress do not produce a deal on the federal budget before year-end, a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff will phase in early in 2013.

* President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that Republicans would have to agree to raise taxes on the wealthy as the first step in a budget deal. But top Republican lawmakers have been steadfast in pushing to hold down tax rates for top earners.

* Few market players expect a compromise between the Democrats and the Republicans any time soon, and that is likely to suggest firm support for Treasuries in coming weeks.

* "You can't expect any progress before the Thanksgiving (on Nov. 22). If they are moving towards a compromise deal, then perhaps we may hear some news of progress in the first week of December," said Tomoaki Shishido, fixed income analyst at Nomura Securities.

* The market also drew support from minutes of the Federal Reserve policy meeting in October, in which a number of officials reckoned the central bank would need to ramp up its bond purchases to help the economy.

* The minutes showed a number of Fed officials thought the central bank would need to buy more bonds when its "Operation Twist" expires at year-end.

* That cemented market expectations that the Fed will keep buying the same amount of bonds, about $85 billion each month, next year.

* San Francisco Fed President John Williams said late on Wednesday the Federal Reserve likely will keep buying both mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries until late 2013.

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