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Bond Brief: Rally Hits Snow Storm

Updated from 11:06 a.m. EDT

Treasuries eked out slim gains Wednesday as employment data became the market's sole obsession ahead of Friday's March payrolls report.

On Thursday, the Labor Department will release a reading on weekly jobless claims, and Wall Street expects the number to hold steady at 305,000. The report will be closely watched for evidence that hiring is weakening, particularly in light of Wednesday's ISM report.

The March ISM non-manufacturing sector index came in at 60.5 from 60.1 in the previous month, defying expectations for a slight dip to 59.0. But beyond the headline number, the employment component fell to 54.6 from February's 58.2.

"The ISM was a mixed number, in that the total number was higher but some of the details were weak," says Rick Klingman, chief Treasuries trader at ABN Amro. "Most important was the soft employment component. With Friday's number, everyone was looking at it a little more carefully."

Bonds gave back some of their early advance after Treasury Secretary John Snow said that Friday's upcoming March jobs report would be "good numbers." The employment picture is seen as the key to when the Fed will stop raising interest rates.

The benchmark 10-year note ended the day up 4/32 to yield 4.85%, while the 30-year bond gained 3/32 to yield 4.90%. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The two-year was little changed to yield 4.80%, and the five-year gained 2/32 to yield 4.79%.

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