German Bunds jump to three-week highs on U.S. growth concerns

Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:10pm EDT

Related Topics

* German Bunds extend gains on weak non-farm payrolls

* Focus turns to upcoming European business surveys

* Strong euro may limit any Bund pull-back

By Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Marius Zaharia

LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - German Bund futures hit three-week highs on Wednesday, extending this week's gains on the back of below-forecast U.S. jobs data that raised expectations the Federal Reserve would delay trimming its bond purchases.

The numbers released on Tuesday showed recovery momentum in the U.S. economy was weaker than anticipated even before October's 16-day government shutdown caused by a political spat over the budget and the public borrowing limit.

An 11th-hour deal to lift the debt ceiling allowed the government to reopen but provided funds only until Jan. 15, raising the spectre of another budget battle early in 2014.

The political uncertainty is likely to have a detrimental impact on growth and therefore prompt the Fed to hold off on plans to scale back its $85 billion monthly purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

Before the shutdown, expectations for when the Fed might "taper" its bond-buying tilted towards the end of the year, but have since been pushed back to early 2014.

The September jobs report has cemented those expectations ahead of the Fed policy meeting next week.

"Yesterday's data was not affected by the shutdown yet it was pretty weak, suggesting perhaps that the U.S. economy could be losing a bit of traction in the third quarter and that the Fed may find it hard to taper in December," said Gianluca Ziglio, head of fixed income research at Sunrise Brokers.

"Investors are going to pay little attention to stronger data, especially the delayed data, and more to weaker data ... so there's room for the market to rally a little bit further."

Bund futures settled 32 ticks up on the day at 140.86, having earlier hit a three-week high of 140.91. They have risen almost two points in the past week.

Cash 10-year German yields fell to their lowest since early October at 1.769 percent. Ziglio said the yields could tumble another 5-10 basis points to trade below September low of 1.694 percent.

A sale of German 30-year bonds had limited market impact as it received bids above market prices, easing concerns about a drop in demand.

FOCUS BACK ON EUROPE

October jobs data on Nov. 8 may give markets a better idea about the impact of political uncertainty on the U.S. economy, but until then, the focus may turn back to Europe.

Spanish bonds outperformed other peripheral debt after data showed Spain escaped a lengthy recession in the third quarter. Spanish 10-year yields fell 7 basis points to 4.14 percent.

Traders will be parsing euro zone manufacturing and services PMIs due on Thursday followed by the German Ifo business sentiment survey on Friday. Strategists said neither was likely to knock Bunds significantly lower.

Weak numbers would suggest the euro zone recovery is also losing momentum, enhancing the appeal of top-rated German debt. But good numbers might further strengthen the euro currency, raising the risk of policy easing by the European Central Bank.

"I would have thought a strong euro would bring inflation even lower, raising chances for a policy reaction," one trader said. "It's a potential supporting factor for Bunds."

The euro is trading at two-year highs against the dollar , while euro zone inflation was 1.1 percent in September, way below the ECB's target of close to 2 percent.

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