U.S. Treasury debt prices eased for a fourth day on Tuesday as investors pushed to undermine prices amid sales of $99 billion of U.S. government notes this week.
However, losses were limited because of a reluctance to push benchmark yields above the important technical level of 2 percent ahead of the end of a two-day Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday, and key employment data on Friday.
Treasurys prices were higher on Tuesday morning after data showing consumers lost confidence in the economic outlook, but fell later in aggressive efforts to cheapen Treasurys going into a five-year note auction.
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Treasurys "were actually doing a little bit better in the morning as far as prices go, and then they started to deteriorate going into the auction," said Mary Ann Hurley, vice president of fixed income trading at D.A. Davidson & Co in Seattle.
The Treasury auctioned $35 billion of five-year notes on Tuesday afternoon after selling $35 billion of two-year notes on Monday. The Treasury will sell $29 billion of seven-year notes on Wednesday.
"We have the seven-year (auction) tomorrow, the Fed meeting ends tomorrow, and non-farm payrolls on Friday and Treasurys are having a hard time doing anything with so many big events coming," Hurley said.
Ten-year notes were trading 9/32 lower in price with yields rising to 1.996 from 1.961 percent late Monday. The yields briefly broke above 2 percent on Monday for the first time since April.
"Monday saw yields reach levels not seen since last April and while we've yet to see a decisive wave of buying, we're cognizant the prior attempts to push yields into this zone have proven buying opportunities," said Ian Lyngen, senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital LLC in Stamford, Connecticut.
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While technical signals don't yet have the momentum for yields to decisively pierce 2 percent, he said, the conclusion of the Fed's policy meeting and the monthly jobs data could change the near-term outlook.
Investors will scour the Fed policy statement on Wednesday for hints of uneasiness within the central bank around its asset-buying program.
Hints along those lines in the minutes from the December meeting, released on Jan. 3, sparked a selloff in Treasurys that shook them from their ranges of recent months, bumping up yields.
Any further suggestion that the bank could pare back or end its latest round of quantitative easing before the close of 2013 could have a similar effect.
Nonfarm payrolls data on Friday could also set the tone for Treasurys trade. The Fed wants to see unemployment closer to 6.5 percent from its current 7.8 percent, with some analysts saying central bank policy is on hold until that happens.
The outlook for the economy was dented on Tuesday after data showed consumer confidence falling to the lowest level in more than a year as Americans became more pessimistic about the economic outlook and their financial prospects in the wake of the expiration of the payroll tax holiday.
Thirty-year bonds traded 20/32 lower in price to yield 3.179 percent, up from 3.142 percent late Monday. Bond yields on Tuesday briefly reached 3.184 percent, marking the highest since late April.
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