Treasury prices ended the week on a positive note after losing value during the first three days and then staging a minor rally over the next two. Weakness in equities has brought back investors' focus to fixed-income securities. At the closing bell, the money market's strength was most evident at the longer end, with the 30-year Treasury gaining by more than half a point.
A $5 billion auction of three-year notes from
also helped the trading volume. There is more supply-side activity to come, with a $21 billion sale of three- and six-month Treasury bills.
The fall in price earlier in the week was primarily due to the $32 billion quarterly auction in notes and bonds, which came to a close yesterday. Such an event usually introduces excess amounts of debt into the market and consequently decreases its worth. Dealers are also inclined to go into a selling mode before the auction hour to lower the bid values of the issues.
The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note rose 15/32 to 99 25/32, lowering its yield 6.1 basis points to 5.028%.
Treasury bond rose 20/32 to 99 25/32, lowering its yield 14.2 basis points to 5.39%.
The stock and bond markets had been moving in tandem for some time, but corporate woes have once again made their relationship inverse. Personal computer manufacturer
believed to be considering laying off thousands of employees and
has announced that
4,000 will be let go in its semiconductor division. Moreover, according to reports,
, another technology bellwether, is being investigated by the SEC for its accounting practices, though the company has said that this is
"not new news." Such discouraging news from the business sector is likely to keep hurting stocks and make bonds the safe-haven investment vehicle.
As was the case two weeks ago, trading over the next couple of days may be subject to over-speculation about short-term monetary policy. Analysts will be hoping for
Federal Reserve chairman
Alan Greenspan to hint of more rate cuts when he addresses the
Senate Banking Committee
In the wake of the Fed's two January cuts, the
Bank of England
cut interest rates yesterday and the Japanese central bank followed through with a cut overnight.
said in his round of conversations with television networks yesterday that he agrees with Greenspan's recent view that the economy is near zero growth. O'Neill estimates the present growth rate at 0.5% - 0 .6%. But he expressed confidence that technology-led productivity gains would take the nation to a "golden era of economic prosperity" as 80% of their contribution is still to be realized. His statements suggest that last quarter's higher-than-expected productivity gains amid a weakening economy were due to structural improvements in supply-chain management techniques.
In his remarks to the local press,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
president William Poole termed the current economic slowdown as a "hiccup" in the manufacturing sector and said that "traditional signs of a recession" were not visible. But he also specified that the Fed is prepared to cut interest rates once again if the economy shows further signs of weakening.
The chiefs of the regional central banks of Chicago, New York and Dallas have made similar comments lately. Their consensus is that the manufacturing sector is experiencing major problems but that the overall economy is not quite as hurt. However, should it begin to stumble, the Fed will step in as often as necessary.
Fed Futures index currently puts the chances of a half-point cut in interest rates by late March at about 90%. The July contract calculates that such a correction in the
fed funds rate is certain by midyear if it doesn't happen at the
Federal Open Market Committee meeting on March 20, and puts the probability of a 75 basis-point lowering by June at about 80%.
Chicago Board of Trade
, the March
Treasury futures contract rose 21/32 to 105.
Currency and Commodities
The dollar rose against the yen and fell against the euro. It lately was worth 117.49 yen, up from 116.65. The euro was worth $0.9248, up from $0.9187. For more on currencies, see
Crude oil for March delivery at the
New York Mercantile Exchange
fell to $31.03 a barrel from $31.59.
Bridge Commodity Research Bureau Index
slipped to 224.34 from 224.80.
Gold for March delivery at the
fell to $259.90 an ounce from $260.10.