BOND REPORT: 10-year Treasury Yield Falls The Most In 3 Weeks Amid Fed Minutes, Political Drama

By Sunny Oh Features Dow Jones Newswires

Fed minutes show senior Fed officials "saw some likelihood that inflation might remain below 2 percent for longer than they currently expected."

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Treasury prices rose, and yields fell, in Wednesday trade after dovish minutes from the Federal Reserve, President Trump's announcement that he was disbanding key business advisory councils, and a tepid reading for housing starts all helped to lift demand for U.S. government paper.

The 10-year Treasury's yield shed 4 basis points to 2.224%, the biggest one-day decline since July 26. Likewise, the yield for the 30-year Treasury bond, or the long bond, dipped 3.4 basis points to 2.806%%. The shorter 2-year note's yield showed the least change, falling 2 basis points to 1.334%, paring back its gain so far this week to 3.6 basis points.

Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.

Treasurys rallied after minutes from the July 17 meeting of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee showed central bank officials "saw some likelihood that inflation might remain below 2 percent for longer than they currently expected," a nod to the market's worries that inflation wasn't "transitory" and could warrant a more gradual pace of rate hikes, (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/some-fed-members-say-bank-can-be-patient-on-interest-rates-due-to-low-inflation-2017-08-16) which tend to support higher Treasury prices.

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen has blamed fleeting weakness in economic data for a befuddling absence of wage and inflation pressures despite strong jobs growth, which should theoretically lift both.

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"They admit they're at least discussing that inflation has come down a bit and they're not just going to use the word transitory over and over again," said Gene Tannuzzo, senior portfolio manager at Columbia Threadneedle.

The minutes also suggested the central bank might begin the tapering of its balance sheet in the coming September confab. Last week, New York Fed President William Dudley and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, voting member, issued remarks backing it to start sooner rather than later.

Also read: Fed eyes September debt drawdown; some want 'patient' on rates (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-eyes-september-debt-drawdown-some-want-patient-on-rates-2017-08-16)

Before the minute's release, bond-buying was already gaining apace after President Donald Trump said he would end two of his business advisory councils, undermining confidence of his ability to carry out his pro-growth agenda (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-the-full-text-on-the-decision-to-dissolve-trumps-strategic-and-policy-forum-2017-08-16). The move came amid an exodus of CEOs from the panels following his remarks about the violence at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

A weaker-than-expected reading for housing-starts data also helped to strengthen the bid in Treasurys. Activity in the housing sector can ripple across the broader economy. Weaker inflation and growth expectations can prove bullish for holders of government debt.

Builders broke ground on fewer homes in July, running at an 1.16 million annual rate, and falling below the MarketWatch consensus forecast of 1.23 million. Though notoriously volatile and frequently revised, the number marks a sharp 4.8% drop from June's pace.

"It is difficult to believe this is the start of a trend, given that home builders remain very optimistic. However, the constraints builders face are holding back more starts: labor and lot shortages and rising costs for materials," noted Jennifer Lee, senior economist for BMO Capital Markets, referring to a boost in builder sentiment in August (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/home-builder-sentiment-roars-back-as-buyers-turn-out-in-force-2017-08-15).

See: Housing starts stumble in July as new-home construction churns gradually higher (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/housing-starts-stumble-in-july-as-new-home-construction-churns-gradually-higher-2017-08-16)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-eyes-september-debt-drawdown-some-want-patient-on-rates-2017-08-16) (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-eyes-september-debt-drawdown-some-want-patient-on-rates-2017-08-16)Elsewhere, investors focused on reports that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi won't use the Fed's meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo., to signal the beginning of the end for its EUR60 billion ($70.18 billion) a month bond-buying program, according to Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecb-policy-draghi-idUSKCN1AW0LF?il=0). Instead, October was pointed to as the most likely date for an announcement of a major policy shift, the report said.

But the bond bulls appeared to take little notice, as the German 10-year Treasury yield was barely unchanged at 0.441%, meaning a modest selloff in government paper. If the ECB rolls back its monetary easing it could result in higher yields for European paper, and have knock-on effects for the U.S. bond market.

Widening or narrowing interest-rate differentials, and therefore also for yields, can spark large movements of money between countries because investors are looking for higher and more diversified returns across the world.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 16, 2017 15:53 ET (19:53 GMT)