June 14, 2013 / 6:46 PM / 5 years ago

TREASURIES-U.S. bond prices edge up on bets Fed to keep rates low

* Benchmark yields set for first weekly drop since April
    * TIPS recover after U.S. producer prices rise in May
    * Futures suggest traders pricing out Fed hike before 2014
    * Data point to sluggish U.S. growth, mild inflation

    By Richard Leong
    NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters) - U.S. government debt prices
rose on Friday as traders bet the Federal Reserve would keep
interest rates near zero for a protracted period to help the
economy even if the bank slows its bond buying this year.
    Supporting that view, a Wall Street Journal report on
Thursday said a change in the Fed's bond-buying does not mean
that the U.S. central bank would end the purchases "all at once"
or that the Fed was "anywhere near raising short-term interest
    The article soothed market fears that the U.S. central bank
was preparing for a quick exit from the quantitative easing
policy it adopted more than four years ago. The Fed has been
buying bonds with the goal of lowering long-term interest rates.
    Markets have fretted about that possibility since Fed head
Ben Bernanke, in congressional testimony on May 22, said the
bank could decide reduce its current $85 billion monthly bond
purchases at one of the "next few meetings" if the economy
proves on a steady growth path. 
    "It's important for the Fed to reposition the market to
think that a rate increase is at least two years away," said
Justin Hoogendoorn, fixed income strategist at BMO Capital
Markets in Chicago.
    Short-term interest rates futures jumped in the wake of the
Wall Street Journal report, suggesting traders dialed back bets
that the Fed might raise rates next year. 
    The Dec 2014 federal funds contract implied traders
anticipated a 42 percent chance of a Fed rate hike at the end of
next year, down from 47 percent on Thursday, according to CME
Group's FedWatch, which computes traders' expectations on the
fed funds rate that the Fed influences through monetary policy. 
    A month ago, that contract implied a 26 percent chance of a
rate increase at the Fed's Dec 2014 policy meeting. 
    Fed policymakers, who will meet Tuesday and Wednesday, might
offer more clues about their collective view on the current
third round of bond purchases, known as QE3.
    "That (Wall Street Journal) article put things back into
perspective. Next week, the market is looking for clues about
possible timing on a tapering," said Sean Simko, head of fixed
income management at SEI Investments Co. in Oaks, Pennsylvania.
    Reduced anxiety about the Fed raising short-term rates,
together with, on balance, weaker-than-expected data on
industrial output and consumer sentiment, spurred buying in
Treasuries, sending benchmark yields to their lowest levels in a
    The yield on 10-year Treasury notes tracked its first weekly
decline since late April. This would snap the longest weekly
losing streak for the 10-year note since late March to early May
2009, when its yield rose for seven straight weeks, according to
Reuters data. 
    The 10-year note last traded 6/32 higher in
price with a yield of 2.13 percent, compared to 2.1579 percent
late on Thursday.
    The 30-year bond rose 8/32 to yield 3.3 percent,
from 3.313 percent late on Thursday.
    Treasury yields rose to 14-month highs earlier this week on
fears about the Fed buying fewer bonds.
    The bond market stabilized from its recent sell-off as data
showed the U.S. economy is growing only sluggishly. Federal
budget cuts and expiration of a payroll tax holiday have added
to a drag on growth this year.
    "The Fed is trying to lay down a road map, but the market
has over-reacted," Simko said.
    Data on Friday showed industrial output was unchanged in
May, falling short of the 0.2 percent rise forecast by
economists, while the Thomson Reuters and University of Michigan
said their index on U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell
from a near six-year high in early June.
    While these latest reports signaled a U.S. economy
struggling to gather steam, government data showed domestic
price growth, while weak, was not at the precipice of deflation,
a downward price spiral that had crippled Japan for a decade.
    The U.S. producer price index grew 0.5 percent last month,
more than the 0.1 percent gain projected by analysts.
    The inflation news helped bolster Treasury Inflation
Protected Securities, which had been pummeled since early April
by heavy selling on falling inflation expectations and fears
over reduced bond purchases from the Fed.
    The yield on 10-year TIPS briefly fell below
zero percent before returning into positive territory. On
Monday, the 10-year TIPS yield traded above zero for the first
time since January 2012, according to Reuters data. 
    Separately, at 11:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), the Fed bought $1.46
billion in Treasuries whose maturities range from February 2036
through May 2043.
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