TREASURIES-U.S. bonds slip as traders await data

Ellen Freilich
Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013 | 11:29 AM ET

* Retail sales, consumer price, home sales data due on Wednesday

* Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke addresses Economic Club in evening

* Positions light; yield curve flattens a little

NEW YORK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury debt prices slipped on Tuesday as investors focused on upcoming economic data and its influence on Federal Reserve policy.

Reports on U.S. retail sales, existing home sales and consumer prices - all pertinent to Fed policy - are due on Wednesday.

"The market's focus remains on the Fed and with data coming on Wednesday - CPI and retail sales and minutes from the Fed's October meeting - positions are very light," said Jake Lowery, Treasury trader and portfolio manager for global interest rates at ING U.S. Investment Management, with $190 billion in assets under management. "Investors are taking very little risk on low volume heading into the end of the year.

"Meanwhile, the yield curve, which had steepened considerably over the past two weeks, has started to flatten a little since we have gotten past last week's 10- and 30-year Treasury supply," Lowery said, referring to a slight narrowing in the difference between short- and long-term yields.

Treasuries started the day lower, in line with bunds, after a survey showed German analyst and investor sentiment beat expectations in November, rising to its highest in four years, helped by a slightly improved economic outlook for the euro zone.

The U.S. third-quarter employment cost index showed that U.S. labor costs rose just 0.4 percent in the third quarter, data that argued for continued stimulative monetary policy.

An event of keen interest to the market, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech to the National Economics Club, was scheduled for Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. EST (00:00 GMT).

"The subject of the speech is communication and monetary policy, so there is plenty of room for Bernanke to deliver market-moving comments," said John Briggs, U.S. rates strategist at RBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.

Referring to interest rates, Briggs said he expected Bernanke to reinforce a policy of "low for a long time."

Lowery said Bernanke's remarks would be "extremely timely since markets are expecting Janet Yellen to bring further innovation to the Fed's communication as she begins her probable chairmanship near year.

"Markets will be on the lookout for Bernanke's opinion of the effectiveness of further dovish guidance," he said.

Before midday, the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was down 5/32, its yield rising to 2.69 percent.

"Major resistance lines up at 2.45 percent, our target for the bullish correction," Briggs said, noting that if support is taken out at 2.75 percent, the next support lines up at 3.00 percent. "Daily momentum is now bullish."

The 30-year bond was down 13/32 in price. Its yield rose to 3.78 percent.