TREASURIES-Bonds firm in Asia on Italy woes, Bernanke comments

TOKYO Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:53pm EST

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TOKYO Feb 27 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasuries firmed in Asia on Wednesday on political deadlock in Italy triggered by inconclusive elections and after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reaffirmed the central bank's commitment to monetary stimulus.

* The yield on 10-year notes dipped slightly to 1.874 percent, from around 1.883 percent in late U.S. trade. It had fallen to as low as 1.836 percent on Tuesday, its lowest level in over a month.

* The benchmark yield has decisively broken below its trading range around two percent during the past month after Italy's elections triggered fears that political paralysis in the country could reignite the debt crisis in the euro zone.

* "The market isn't trying to price in a European crisis like the one we saw last year. Still, what it is doing now is to recalibrate risk and to price in some of that risk," said Tomoaki Shishido, fixed income analyst at Nomura Securities.

* U.S. bonds could gain if Italy is forced to pay far higher borrowing costs than before the election, when it sells longer-dated bonds on Wednesday.

* Treasuries got a modest boost after Bernanke strongly defended the Fed's bond-buying stimulus, easing some speculation that the Fed is inching towards wrapping up its big bond buying scheme as soon as the middle of this year.

* While Bernanke acknowledged the risks from the U.S. central bank's bond purchases, which have ballooned its balance sheet to more than $3 trillion, he said the Fed has the ability to manage these risks.

* Investors are also looking to $85 billion in automatic, across-the board spending cuts due to come into force on Friday unless lawmakers reach a budget deal to avoid them.

* While worries that spending cuts would hurt the still-fragile U.S. economy are likely to support Treasuries, Nomura's Shishido said the initial market response may be muted given that its impact will be spread out over a long period.

* "It's not like a government shutdown. Even if spending cuts start, the government can't cut staff on day one. It will take some time. So the market may be able to react only when its impact start to show up in economic data, perhaps in late April at the earliest," he said.

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