BOND REPORT: 10-year Treasury Yields Tumble Toward Post-election Lows As North Korea Tensions Rise

By Mark DeCambre and Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. dollar, equities pare earlier losses

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U.S. Treasury prices rose on Tuesday, driving yields to their lowest levels since late 2016 as renewed market fears following a North Korean missile test stoked a flight into assets perceived as havens.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note hit as low as 2.09% early Tuesday and was last down 4 basis points to 2.123%. That's the lowest since Nov. 11, according to FactSet data. That was just a few days after Donald Trump's presidential election victory sparked a Treasury selloff that sent yields soaring.

Bond prices and yields move inversely.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond recovered somewhat by the afternoon as the U.S. dollar and the S&P 500 pared earlier losses.

The small recovery in risk appetite was in part due to the lack of aggressive rhetoric from the U.S. government, according to Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

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"The initial reaction was driven by sharp moves in the U.S. dollar, but the response from the international community that any action against North Korea would be taken through the U.N. helped alleviate some of the fears," LeBas said.

The yield on the 2-year Treasury note shed 3 basis points to 1.309% --its lowest since Aug. 23, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was off by 2 basis points at 2.732%. The so-called long bond had been as low as 2.69%, its lowest yield since June 27.

The fall in yields for government paper came after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japanese airspace, reviving the geopolitical fears that had rattled Wall Street amid testy verbal sparring between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. Trump earlier this month threatened "fire and fury (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-today-president-says-north-korea-faces-fire-and-fury-if-it-doesnt-halt-threats-2017-08-08)" against the so-called Hermit Kingdom over its nuclear missile program.

"The world has received North Korea's latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior," Trump said in a Tuesday morning statement.

This recent missile launch was the first Pyongyang has fired over Japan's main islands since 2009 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/north-koreas-outrageous-missile-launch-over-japan-inflames-tensions-again-2017-08-29), and is the latest in a string of direct provocations, the most recent of which occurred a few days ago.

Some analysts said that the knee-jerk reaction in currency and bond markets reflect fears among investors because the recent missile tests are happening with a largely untested leader in Trump.

"Under a different administration market response to a missile launch would have been level-headed," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

Seasonally low trading volumes also have left the market more sensitive to pronounced asset swings. August tends to be the most volatile, and among the more lightly traded, periods for stocks and bonds.

Other havens briefly gained from the sense of uncertainty sparked by Pyongyang's move. Gold futures traded at the highest levels since October 2016 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-hits-11-month-high-as-another-north-korea-missile-sparks-haven-flight-2017-08-29), while currencies considered safe also strengthened against the dollar. Earlier the dollar hit its lowest in four months against the Japanese yen (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-dives-to-lowest-since-early-2015-rattled-by-north-korea-missile-launch-2017-08-29), trading at 108, but recently was changing hand at Yen109.21, fractionally lower from Yen109.26 on Monday.

In European fixed-income markets, the 10-year German bond , also known as the bund, saw yields of 0.33%, compared with 0.376% late Monday in New York.

Government bond yields have been under pressure in the wake of Texas flooding that has left billions of property damage and flooding in the Houston area (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/damage-from-harvey-may-make-it-fourth-worst-all-time-2017-08-29) caused by Hurricane Harvey, disrupting energy production in the epicenter of U.S. crude-oil refining.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 29, 2017 14:15 ET (18:15 GMT)