U.S. government debt yields held steady on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting minutes revealed that policymakers judged that a “patient” approach to interest rate hikes is the best path forward.
“Almost all participants thought that it would be desirable to announce before too long a plan to stop reducing the Federal Reserve’s asset holdings later this year,” the meeting minutes said. “Such an announcement would provide more certainty about the process for completing the normalization of the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.”
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note inched higher to 2.65 percent, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond hovered just below 3 percent. The yield on the 2-year note slipped to 2.495 percent; bond yields move inversely to prices.
“This could help increase yields on the back end because it puts some risk-on [sentiment] into the marketplace,” said Thierry Wizman, global interest rates and currencies strategist at Macquarie Group. Traders may be thinking that “bonds may not be place to be if the Fed doesn’t plan on being a headwind.”
The minutes also showed that Fed members considered soft inflation numbers, the government shutdown and the path of fiscal policy. Officials also weighed the impact that Fed policy tightening moves as well as the ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and China would have on the economy.
“Participants pointed to a variety of considerations that supported a patient approach to monetary policy at this juncture as an appropriate step in managing various risks and uncertainties in the outlook,” the meeting minutes added.
New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said Tuesdaythat he was content with the current level of U.S. interest rates. The policymaker said he didn’t see any reason to hike rates again except in the event of surprising growth or inflation data.
The Fed’s raising of rates four times last year was a big point of anxiety for the markets, with market players nervous about the pace of the central bank’s stimulus tightening. The institution paused its once quarterly rate hikes last month, amid concerns of a potential slowdown in economic growth.
U.S. and Chinese officials began a fresh set of trade discussions in Washington on Tuesday as the two sides work to end their prolonged tit-for-tat dispute. While last week’s deliberations ended in Beijing concluded without a deal, officials said progress was made on some contentious issues.
Talks between high-level trade officials are expected to take place later in the week and will be led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a vocal critic of what the U.S. deems forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft by the Chinese. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the March 2 deadline for the two nations to reach a deal was not a “magical date,” hinting at an extension to the target date.
Yields have declined in recent weeks as global growth concerns fueled interest in assets considered safer by Wall Street’s investors. Deutsche Bank reduced its baseline forecast for Europe earlier this month, telling clients to expect “close to zero” growth in the first half of the year thanks to trade and Brexit uncertainties.
The economic outlook doesn’t look much better in Asia, where Chinese growth and consumer sentiment remain anemic while Washington and Beijing haggle over tariffs and the existing trade balance.
— CNBC’s Ryan Browne and Jeff Cox contributed reporting.
The iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) was trading at $104.60 per share on Wednesday afternoon, down $0.02 (-0.02%). Year-to-date, IEF has declined -0.25%, versus a 4.67% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.
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