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Bond Report: Treasury yields turn up as Bank of England delivers second hike, ECB’s Lagarde sees upside inflation risks


Treasury yields moved broadly higher Thursday morning as weekly U.S. jobless claims fell and the Bank of England delivered a second consecutive rate increase, marking its first back-to-back rate hikes since 2004.

Meanwhile, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said inflation risks in the eurozone, relative to December, are “tilted to the upside.”

What are yields doing?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.831% rose to 1.834%, compared with 1.765% at 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday.
The 2-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD02Y, 1.193% was 1.194% versus 1.154% Wednesday afternoon.
The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond TMUBMUSD30Y, 2.158% was at 2.165%, up from 2.093% late Wednesday.

What’s driving the market?

As expected, the Bank of England delivered a second straight rate increase at the conclusion of its policy meeting Thursday, by a 5-to-4 vote. The surprise to markets came as the four-person minority wanted a half-point rate hike. The Bank of England forecasts inflation will peak at 7.25% in April.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank stood pat and affirmed the path for winding down pandemic-related asset purchases that it laid out in December. Lagarde, the ECB’s president, said there was “unanimous concern” among policy makers about inflation at Thursday’s policy meeting, and policy makers would make a more detailed assessment of the impact of higher-than-expected inflation in March.

U.S. data released Thursday showed that new requests for U.S. unemployment benefits fell for the second week in a row. Initial jobless claims declined by 23,000 to 238,000 for the week ended Jan. 29 from a revised 261,000 in the prior week, as the record omicron wave receded and more people were able to go back to work. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected initial claims to fall to 245,000.

Fourth-quarter productivity rose 6.6%, while unit-labor costs came in at a lower-than-expected 0.3% for the same period after a revised 9.3% in the third quarter. A barometer of business conditions at service-style companies such as restaurants and retailers slid 2.4 points in January to a 11-month low of 59.9%, ISM said. And factory orders fell 0.4% in December.

Investors are watching for clues to the tightness of the labor market and how it could affect inflation, shaping the Federal Reserve’s policy path as it prepares to begin raising interest rates.

Economists expect January nonfarm payrolls to show a rise of 150,000 on Friday, though there’s some potential for a weak or even negative reading following Wednesday’s surprising private-sector payrolls report from Automatic Data Processing, which fell 301,000 in January. Weak January jobs data, however, isn’t seen putting a damper on the Fed’s plans.

The Senate Banking Committee is holding a confirmation hearing Wednesday morning for Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson, nominated by President Joe Biden to fill seats on the Federal Reserve Board.

What are analysts saying?

The BoE’s split decision was a “shock” to the market, said Ben Emons, managing director of global macro strategy at Medley Global Advisors. “The decision is exemplar of what a `front-loaded’ rate hike cycle could look like coming out of the pandemic. The Bank of England is saddled with similar problems as the Federal Reserve, and now the European Central Bank.”
“The cure for high rates is high rates themselves,” said Jeff Klingelhofer, co-head of investments and portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management. “That is, we have an overleveraged economy today that’s much more exposed to the potential of rising rates that will act as a natural break. But we also recognize that the right tail risk certainly exists.” In an email, Klingelhofer wrote that “one of the best ways into a rising interest rate environment is to have a notably shorter duration.”

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