Bond Report: 10-year government bond yield slips below 3% after ECB policy update

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Treasury yields pulled back early Thursday, threatening to halt a protracted selloff in U.S. government paper that saw yields—which move inversely to price—for the benchmark 10-year break above a psychologically significant level at 3%.

The European Central Bank said in a statement that it would continue to buy €30 billion ($36.4 billion) a month of eurozone bonds at least through September, and would leave its key interest rate unchanged at minus 0.4%.

Traders were listening to ECB President Mario Draghi’s news conference, which kicked off at 8.30 a.m. Eastern. Here’s a live blog of the ECB event.

See: 4 outcomes for the ECB meeting, in 1 handy chart

How are Treasurys performing?

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -1.18%  shed 3 basis points to 2.996%, after notching its highest level since Dec. 31, 2013 late Wednesday in New York, according to WSJ Market Data Group. Yields in the maturity have climbed for 14 of the past 17 trading sessions.

The benchmark needs to push above 3.047% to match its highest level since July 2011, according to Tradeweb data. According to WSJ Data, any level above 3.0299% would represent that roughly seven-year peak.

The 2-year note yield TMUBMUSD02Y, -0.32%  gave up 1.3 basis points to 2.475%, holding around its highest since August 2008. The rate on the 30-year bond TMUBMUSD30Y, -1.00% fell by 3.1 basis points to 3.180%. Both the 2-year and 30-year Treasurys have seen yields climb for six sessions in a row.

Read: Stock-market investors are barking up the wrong tree on Treasury yields

What’s driving the bond market?

Bond traders will watch for any comments from the ECB’s president, Mario Draghi, on eurozone economic growth.

The ECB in March surprised markets by signaling it is on track to end its stimulus program before year’s end. But since then, economic data have pointed to a slowdown in the eurozone economy. That has led investors to dial back expectations for the start of rate increases in the middle of 2019.

Read: Expect a careful, dovish Mario Draghi

Rising bond yields, which can make investors reassess valuations for stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.25%  and the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.18% have been rattling equity benchmarks, even as earnings have mostly come in better than expected on the back of corporate tax cuts written into law by President Donald Trump late last year.

The ECB policy statement may provide a modicum of clarity on next steps for a market searching for catalyst, as investors struggle in a regime in which central bankers are attempting to normalize monetary policy after the 2008-09 financial crisis. The ECB has been gradually dialing back its quantitative-easing program, while the market is pricing in a Federal Reserve that may raise interest rates as many as three more times in 2018.

Expectation for higher interest rates and a pickup in inflation toward the Fed’s 2% annual target has helped underpin Treasury trading in recent weeks.

What are strategists saying?

“With US interest rate levels starting to rise to new multi-year highs on an almost daily basis, investors are asking themselves, despite a bumper earnings season, is this likely to be as good as it gets,” wrote Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in a Thursday note.

Which data are in focus?
  • Weekly jobless claims drop 24,000 to 209,000, marking the lowest level since 1969, with 230,000 estimated
  • Durable goods orders for March jumped 2.6%, ahead of average analysts forecasts for a rise of 2.5%, contracts for Boeing planes underpinning the gain.
  • Core capital goods orders dip 0.1% in March
  • Advanced U.S. wholesale inventories rise 0.5% in March, retail inventories were down 0.4%
  • A report on housing vacancies for the first quarter is scheduled for 10 a.m.
What other assets are in focus?

The 10-year German bond TMBMKDE-10Y, -3.01%  fell to 0.608%, compared with 0.638% in the previous session, according to FactSet data. The so-called German bund is often used as a proxy for the health of the eurozone.