TREASURIES-Prices steady, underpinned by spending cut worries
* Investors worry U.S. spending cuts will hit economic growth * German ZEW sentiment highest since April 2010 * Fed buying longer-dated debt in four operations this week By Chris Reese NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury debt traded little changed in price on Tuesday as worries over the impact of potential government spending cuts on the U.S. economy and political uncertainty in Italy underpinned U.S. government debt despite some strength in stocks. Treasuries dipped in price overnight after a measure of German analyst and investor sentiment soared to the highest level since April 2010, according to the ZEW think tank. The data boosted the euro and European shares and caused a temporary dip in safe-haven German Bunds and U.S. debt. But the price dip was immediately met by buying interest from investors concerned that an economic recovery could be derailed by across-the-board U.S. government spending cuts of about $85 billion that could take effect on March 1 if lawmakers fail to agree on a plan to avoid them. Also supporting Treasuries, one of the main assets used as a refuge from the euro zone's debt troubles, were concerns that Italian elections on Feb. 24-25 could result in a fragmented parliament that could hamper future reform efforts. Benchmark 10-year Treasuries were trading 1/32 higher in price, with the yield little changed from late Friday near 2.00 percent. Expectations of only tepid economic growth had some analysts calling for yields to hover near recent ranges. "A sub-par economic recovery, sizable fiscal tightening and ultra-accommodative Fed policy will anchor 10-year rates near 2 percent in 2013," said Priya Misra, head of U.S. rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. "We continue to expect that rates will spend most of the year between 1.75 percent and 2 percent, with only modest risks of a sustained move above 2.25 percent," Misra said. Thirty-year bonds were trading 4/32 higher in price to yield 3.17 percent, also little changed from late Friday. U.S. markets were closed on Monday for the Presidents Day holiday, and the work week began slowly on Tuesday with little in the way of top-tier economic data on the schedule. Investors will closely watch several releases later in the week, with housing starts and homes sales data on Wednesday and Thursday, along with January producer and consumer price indexes. Minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting in January will also come out on Wednesday afternoon. One guaranteed buyer of Treasuries was the Federal Reserve, which on Tuesday purchased $1.45 billion of U.S. government debt maturing February 2036 through February 2043. The central bank will buy longer-dated debt in three more operations through the rest of the week as part of its most recent economic stimulus plan. Yields were little impacted by data showing U.S. home-builder confidence in the market for single family homes eased slightly in February from last month's seven-year high, as builders faced higher material costs.
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