TREASURIES-Prices ease as investors book profits
* Investors eyeing ECB on Thursday, jobs data Friday
* China's move to cool property market stokes growth worries
* Italy edges closer to another election
NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury debt prices reversed early gains on Monday as investors took profits, although worries over political uncertainty in Italy and the pace of growth in China and the United States limited losses. U.S. government debt stayed well within recent ranges despite choppy early trading. A dearth of significant economic data kept trading volumes below average. Treasuries could stay range bound as well for much of the week, as markets wait for a European Central Bank meeting on Thursday and key U.S. jobs figures on Friday. "The market's a bit expensive to really go 'gung-ho' and buy at this point even though there's a lot of risk," said Kim Rupert, managing director of global fixed income analysis at Action Economics LLC in San Francisco. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes traded 8/32 lower in price to yield 1.87 percent, up from 1.85 percent late Friday. Early in the session yields dipped to 1.83 percent, marking the lowest since Jan. 24. Prices for 30-year bonds fell 19/32 to yield 3.09 percent, up from 3.06 percent late Friday. Investors were nervous that China's government actions to cool the heated property market could weigh on growth.
Ongoing political turmoil in Italy also dented investor appetite for risk. After last month's inconclusive election, the country could be inching closer toward another vote within months. Along with China and Europe, investors were also fretting over the pace of growth in the U.S. after automatic government spending cuts, known as "sequestration," were allowed to kick in starting March 1. Investors this week will watch the ECB's rate decision on Thursday. Analysts in a Reuters poll expect policymakers to stand pat but a surprise rate cut could jolt markets. The market is also waiting for key U.S. jobs data on Friday. Analysts in a Reuters poll see non-farm payrolls rising by 160,000. The U.S. Federal Reserve has emphasized the need to see a lower unemployment rate in weighing monetary policy. Until the unemployment rate, currently at 7.9 percent, edges closer to the bank's goal of 6.5 percent, analysts say Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is unlikely to lead the central bank into tightening its ultra-loose policy. "People are having to acknowledge, whether they agree or not, that the Bernanke Fed sees this stimulative leg of their policy as having a long way to go yet," said Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at Prudential Fixed Income in Newark, New Jersey. The Fed is buying $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion of Treasuries per month in an effort to prop up the economy. Many analysts expect the open-ended program to continue through 2013. Tipp expects the Fed buying, along with investor demand for safe-haven assets, to keep yields range-bound in the near term. "We are going to be likely to stay centered around here in a 1.60 percent to 2.10 percent range for a few months, at least while we wait and sort out what the impact has been of the sequester and the expiration of tax cuts," he said.