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Treasurys rise as stocks fal

Sunday, January 27, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - Long-term Treasury prices rallied sharply Friday as investors turned cautious, pulling out of the stock market and toward safe assets ahead of the weekend.

Stocks opened higher and Treasurys lower Friday, as Wall Street tried to extend a lively two-day advance into a third session. But the markets had switched positions by the time of the 3 p.m. Eastern bond market close.

Worries about weakness at financial institutions helped spark demand for Treasurys, which carry government backing and are largely shielded from the risks of some other asset classes.

News that investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will lay off about 5 percent of its weak-performing employees helped feed some of the advance into Treasurys, although the investment bank said such cuts are standard practice.

There also were rumors that Dutch banking giants ING and Fortis may have to issue new profits warnings. Those rumors may have had a disproportionate impact because there is great nervousness about European banks this week after a rogue Societe Generale traded brought about $7.1 billion in losses for his institution through illegal trades. Fortis' stock fell and the bank issued a statement that it knew of no reason for the declines.

Another rumor that caught investors' attention concerned the possibility of new hedge fund trouble, according to Tom di Galoma, head of Treasurys trading at Jefferies & Co. That rumor was never verified.

However, there was a large hedge fund liquidation of a market bet on the difference between the yields of the 2-year and 10-year notes, he said. The unwinding of such a trade is not necessarily an indication of distress.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note gained 28/32 to 105 14/32 with a yield of 3.58 percent, down from 3.71 percent in late trade Thursday. Prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The 30-year long bond advanced 1 21/32 to 111 30/32 with a yield of 4.28 percent, down from 4.37 percent late Thursday.

The 2-year note rose 5/32 to 101 31/32 with a yield of 2.20 percent, down from 2.32 percent late Thursday.

The yield on the 3-month note fell to 2.23 percent from 2.37 percent late Thursday as the discount rate dropped to 2.18 percent from 2.31 percent.

Heavy purchasing in after hours trade drove yields lower. At 5:30 p.m. Eastern the 10-year yield was 3.56 percent, the 30-year yield was 4.26 percent and the 2-year yield was 2.19 percent.

During most of January the stock market was slammed by storms of selling as investors reacted negatively to dismal earnings from major banks and shakiness in the credit markets and overall economy. The aversion to the risks of financial and other stocks created heavy demand for Treasurys, which carry government backing.

Yet investor sentiment may have improved somewhat this week, following a large Federal Reserve rate reduction and an economic stimulus plan agreement between the Bush administration and congressional leaders. Investors since Wednesday in general have been more interested in the bargains in the stock market.

The Fed will hold a monetary policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many investors expect the Fed to follow up on this week's sizable 0.75 percentage point rate reduction with a 0.50 percentage point cut that would drive the overnight Fed funds rate charged to commercial banks down to 3 percent.

Posted by MOHAMED SAID at 7:30 AM  

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