March 19, 2018 / 6:19 PM / a month ago

Prices gain as tumbling stocks boosts safety buying

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury prices gained on Monday as stocks tumbled and as investors waited on the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting on Wednesday, where the U.S. central bank is widely expected to raise rates for the first time this year.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Stocks slid about 1 percent with Facebook’s shares sinking after reports that its user data was misused led to concerns over broader privacy violations and sparked a selloff in technology stocks.

“We are moving higher as the stocks move lower,” said Lou Brien, a market strategist at DRW Trading in Chicago, adding “I don’t know if there’s a little trepidation in front of Powell’s first meeting at the FOMC.”

Investors will be watching whether Jerome Powell adopts a more hawkish tone in his first meeting as Fed chairman and if Fed officials change their projections for future economic growth and inflation.

A jump in consumer prices in January increased expectations that inflation was rising, which was seen as increasing the likelihood of four rate hikes this year, though February’s consumer price index last week showed prices cooled in the month.

“People will be sensitive to any nuance that suggests that four rate hikes are possible in calendar year 2018,” said Jim Vogel, an interest rate strategist at FTN Financial in Memphis, Tennessee.

Benchmark 10-year notes US10YT=RR gained 1/32 in price on the day to yield 2.846 percent, after earlier rising as high as 2.879 percent.

U.S. bond yields had risen earlier on Monday in line with higher European bond yields after the European Union and Britain reached a deal on a Brexit transition and after a report that the European Central Bank is shifting its debate on the expected path of interest rates.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, told reporters on Monday that Britain and the bloc have reached a transition deal under which Britain would remain effectively a non-voting EU member for 21 months until the end of 2020.

Reuters also reported that the debate on rates among policymakers at the European Central Bank (ECB) is shifting as even some of its most dovish rate setters accept that bond buys should end this year.

“We had the Brexit item to start and then we added an extra layer,” said Vogel, noting that the ECB report indicates that “even the doves are feeling the pressure to go ahead and start thinking about when rates might be raised.”

Reporting by Karen Brettell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Grant McCool

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