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Treasury bond yields little changed in Asian trading despite U.S. downgrade

August 7, 2011 |  6:21 pm

Interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds were mixed in early Asian trading on Sunday, with short-term rates falling and longer-term rates rising as investors had their first opportunity to react to the government’s downgraded credit rating.

The moves in both directions were relatively modest.

The 10-year T-note yield edged up to 2.57% just after 6:15 p.m. PDT from Friday’s closing level of 2.56% in New York. The 30-year T-bond rose to 3.89% from 3.85%.

But the two-year T-note eased to a record low of 0.27% from 0.29% on Friday.

Noda As investors feared a global market rout on Sunday, finance ministers and central banks of the Group of Seven industrialized nations issued a statement pledging to "take all necessary measures to support financial stability and growth."

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters that Treasuries remained an "attractive" investment. Japan owns more than $900 billion of U.S. debt.

Earlier, the European Central Bank said it would "actively" buy government bonds of euro-zone countries. The ECB is expected to target Italian and Spanish bonds, trying to avert a market panic that could further drive up those countries' borrowing costs and push them toward financial collapse.

In the U.S., analysts have been uncertain as to how global investors would react to Standard & Poor’s move late Friday to downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating to AA+ from AAA -- the first time in history that America has lost its top-rung rating.

S&P cited concerns about the nation’s growing debt load and uncertainty about Washington’s willingness to rein-in borrowing.

Many on Wall Street argue that investors are unlikely to flee Treasuries, because even with the one-notch downgrade there still is no significant risk that the government would be unable to pay its bills.

What’s more, with the global economic recovery fading and stock markets stumbling, many investors seem likely to continue to turn to Treasuries as a haven. Stocks were broadly lower in early Asian trading Monday, with the Tokyo market off 1.3%, Sydney down 1% and Taipei off 1.7%.

U.S. bonds “will continue to serve their traditional role as a hedge” against riskier assets, money management giant BlackRock Inc. in New York said in a statement Sunday. There are “few genuine alternatives,” it said.

The firm, with $3.65 trillion in assets, said that “while a time may come when the credit risk-free status of Treasury bonds is diminished . . . we do not believe that the S&P downgrade signals that this moment has come now.”

-- Tom Petruno


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Photo: Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks to reporters in Tokyo. Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi / Bloomberg News