Bond Prices Fall on WSJ Report on Draghi

By Min Zeng Features Dow Jones Newswires

Prices of U.S. government bonds fell Thursday after three days of gains, on renewed anxiety that major central banks are preparing to tighten the easy-money policies that have helped prop up asset prices since the financial crisis.

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A key driver for Thursday's selling was a report from The Wall Street Journal that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is scheduled to address the Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole conference in August, some analysts and investors said. Mr. Draghi is expected to give further signs of the ECB's growing confidence in the eurozone economy and its reduced need for monetary stimulus, the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The latest bond-market gyration underscores investors' sensitivity to the global outlook for monetary policy. Large bond-buying programs from the ECB and Bank of Japan have helped drive global yields to historically low levels over the past few years. The risk for investors is that the value of their bonds could fall as central banks pivot toward reducing monetary stimulus.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note settled at 2.348%, compared with 2.325% Wednesday. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

The yield on the 10-year German bund, the center of the recent bond market rout, rose to 0.522% from 0.510% Wednesday.

Raman Srivastava, deputy chief investment officer and managing director of global fixed income at Standish Mellon, said a further rise in German bund yields is "a big risk for Treasury bonds."

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Mr. Srivastava said he has cut Treasury holdings during the recent selloff. He expects the 10-year Treasury yield to rise close to 2.75% at the end of this year.

Worries about a pivot toward reduced monetary stimulus led to relatively tepid demand for a $12 billion sale of 30-year Treasury bonds on Thursday afternoon, some investors said. The bonds were sold at a yield of 2.936%, higher than 2.925% before the auction and a sign demand was weaker than dealers had anticipated.

The Treasury bond market had stabilized earlier this week following a two-week selloff, rallying on Wednesday after Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen's semiannual testimony to Congress bolstered market expectation that the Fed would be very slow in tightening monetary policy.

Earlier Thursday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note had fallen to 2.305%.

The swing underlines how ultraloose monetary policy since the financial crisis has increased the linkage among bond markets in the developed world. Analysts say this factor means the Treasury bond market is vulnerable to any selloff in bunds or other bond markets.

Mr. Draghi's hawkish comment on June 27 kicked off the recent global bond market rout. A day before his remark, the 10-year Treasury note settled at this year's low of 2.135%.

"We think that longer-term interest rates now pivot more off of international rate policy, such as that stemming from the ECB and the BOJ, and not solely on what the Fed is doing," said Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock.

Some money managers say they don't expect a sustained rise in bond yields without inflation picking up speed.

U.S. reports have showed inflation pressure slowed down with some indicators falling below the Fed's 2% target. Ms. Yellen on Wednesday acknowledged the uncertain outlook on inflation. Friday's consumer-price index data for June is the key to watch on inflation.

"With growth still trending around 2% and low inflation, I do not think it is a permanent rise in rates," said Gemma Wright-Casparius, senior money manager at Vanguard Group. "It would take a sharp acceleration in inflation or a sharp tightening of monetary liquidity to change my view."

Inflation eats into bond investors' purchasing power from fixed income investments and is a big threat to long-term government bonds.

Write to Min Zeng at min.zeng@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 13, 2017 17:29 ET (21:29 GMT)