Bonds Fall in Choppy Trading; China, Italy Make Waves

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U.S. Treasury debt prices fell on Monday as investors weighed recent price gains against political uncertainty in Italy and growth fears in China. U.S. government debt stayed well within recent ranges, despite choppy trading.

Treasuries could likely stay rangebound, 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.

The yield on 10-year notes dipped 8/32 in price to yield 1.876 percent, one basis point less than in late U.S. trade on Friday and not far from a one-month low of 1.836 percent set last week.

Investors were nervous 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 towards another vote within months.

"It's less about Italy per se than voter and political reaction to austerity," said Jim Vogel, interest rate strategist at FTN Financial in Memphis.

Those reactions to budget austerity have broader implications for much of Europe. While the euro zone sovereign debt crisis has quieted recently, problem spots such as Spain and Italy remain. Nor are the problems confined to the monetary union, as worries have flared recently about the possibility of another slide into recession in the United Kingdom.

Investors this week will eye the ECB's rate decision on Thursday. With analysts in a Reuters poll expecting policymakers to stand pat, a surprise rate cut could jolt markets.

On Friday, investors will wait for key U.S. jobs data. 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 that rate, currently at 7.9 percent, edges closer to the bank's goal of 6.5 percent, analysts say the bank is unlikely to tighten its ultra-loose policy.

Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve's influential vice chair, said on Monday the U.S. central bank's aggressive monetary stimulus is warranted given how far the economy was operating below its full potential. Yellen said Fed officials expect the unemployment rate to come down all too slowly to around 7 percent at the end of next year.

The was last 21/32 lower in price to yield 3.08 percent, one basis points less than in late New York trade on Friday.