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US bond prices slip as data offers hope on economy

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U.S. Treasurys traded near flat on Thursday as a stunningly strong report on Midwest business activity eased some pessimism that fourth-quarter growth may be sub-par following the recent federal government shutdown.

Despite Thursday's decline, the bond market was poised for a second month of gains after a dismal summer. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its regional business index jumped to 65.9 in October from 55.7 last month. The reading handily beat the 55.0 forecast by analysts and was the highest since March 2011.

"This was just ridiculously strong,'' said Eric Green, global head of rates and currency research and strategy at TD Securities in New York. Still, Green and other analysts downplayed the importance of the data as many other indicators have signaled slower demand and hiring in the aftermath of the first partial federal government shutdown in 17 years. They stuck to the view that the Federal Reserve will keep its current $85-billion monthly bond purchases into early 2014 to support the economy.

The federal government's report on Thursday of a decline in new jobless claims in the latest week added to signs of resilience in the economy. New claims fell by 10,000 to 340,000, close to an estimated 339,000 claims.

"Things are not unraveling even though we might get another disappointing jobs report,'' Green said. The Labor Department will release its non-farm payrolls report for October at the end of next week. While the monthly jobs data is always closely watched, the report for October is of particular interest as investors are looking for signs of the impact of the government shutdown during the first half of the month.

In brisk volume, the bond market added to losses on Wednesday tied to a perceived less-dovish view from the Fed following its recent two-day meeting. Analysts concluded the Fed left the door open to reducing stimulus in the coming months even though policy-makers acknowledged slower growth due to the government shutdown.

"They are trying to reinforce the view they are data dependent. They really don't know,'' said James Sarni, managing principal at Payden & Rygel in Los Angeles, which oversees $80 billion in assets.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes little changed in price with a yield of 2.55 percent.

—By Reuters

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