Bond Report: Government bond yields trim rise after weak ISM reading

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Treasury yields remained higher, but modestly trimmed gains, after a weaker-than-expected reading on U.S. economic data partly offset an earlier round of data showing a rebound in Chinese manufacturing activity.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, +2.52%  was up 4.6 basis points at 1.826%, while the 2-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD02Y, +1.01%  was up 1.2 basis points at 1.616%. The 30-year Treasury bond yield TMUBMUSD30Y, +3.00%  rose 7.6 basis points to 2.275%. The yield on the 10-year note had earlier traded at a session high of 1.855%, according to FactSet. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.

The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index fell to 48.1% in November from 48.3% in October, defying expectations for a rise to 49.2%. Readings below 50% indicate a contraction in activity.

See: U.S. manufacturing sector weakens further in November — ISM

“All in all, this should take some wind out of the sails of the argument that the U.S. economy is accelerating going into the end of the year,” said Jon Hill, rates analyst at BMO Capital Markets, in a note. “This raises the stakes for the nonmanufacturing and [nonfarm payrolls] figures later this week, though we’re highly doubtful even underwhelming reads would be sufficient to goad the FOMC into cutting rates in just nine days” when Fed policy makers meet Dec. 10-11.

Yields were boosted earlier after upbeat readings on manufacturing data from China.

The Caixin manufacturing purchasing managers index rose to 51.8 in November from 51.7 in October, Caixin Media Co. and research firm Markit said Monday — with the reading remaining above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction. Earlier, China’s official manufacturing PMI reading moved back into expansion activity, rising to 50.2 in November from 49.3, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics, marking the first reading above 50 for the index since April.

“Speculation that global manufacturing might be over the worst of the downturn is lifting bond yields and, we can add to this the move from easing to stability among major central banks such as the Fed” and European Central Bank, said Steve Barrow, head of G-10 strategy at Standard Bank, in a Monday note.

Barrow, however, cautioned that it might be premature to signal the global all-clear after a bout of trade-related weakness over the past couple of years. PMI readings across many countries remain near the mid-40s, which appears to be a “natural base,” he said, ahead of the U.S. ISM data.

“While it is still gratifying that PMI surveys might have stopped falling at this ‘natural’ base, rather than weaken towards the ‘crisis’ levels, there are ominous signs that the manufacturing weakness is still weighing on the — much bigger — service sector,” he wrote. “Until services start to stabilize as well, we think it is unwise to believe that central banks have stopped easing or that bond yields are likely to shoot higher.”

Still, central banks likely have completed the bulk of the easing in store in the current “mini-cycle,” Barrow said, adding that bond yields are likely to edge higher over time as the global economy eventually rights itself.

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