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U.S. bonds rose in choppy trading on Friday as nervous investors pulled out of stock markets worldwide and piled into less risky government debt, sending the U.S. 30-year bond yield to its lowest level since July.
The sell-off in global equities persisted in the wake of disappointing quarterly results from JPMorgan Chase, the biggest U.S. bank. This exerted more downward pressure, putting the Standard & Poor's 500 index on track for weekly drop of 2.5 percent, the steepest weekly loss in 11 weeks.
Treasurys prices briefly dipped into negative territory when S&P 500 and Nasdaq staged a comeback midday, but the stock rebound faded and the selling resumed.
"This equity market meltdown has brought a 'fear' bid into bonds," said Larry Milstein, head of government and agency trading at R.W. Pressprich & Co. in New York.
While Treasurys prices finished the day near their session highs, they were capped by profit-taking and selling related to hedging on next week's corporate bond supply, traders said.
Benchmark 10-year Treasurys notes last traded 6/32 higher in price for a yield of 2.63 percent. The 10-year yield fell 11 basis points this week and ended at the low end of its 20 basis point trading range established since late January.
The 30-year bond was up 19/32 in price, yielding 3.49 percent. The 30-year yield earlier fell to its lowest intraday level since early July, bringing its year-to-date decline to nearly 47 basis points, according to Reuters data.
Short-to-medium Treasurys firmed modestly in price with their yields flat to down 1 basis point.
The U.S. bond market rallied this week on renewed safe-haven bids as well as relief buying in reaction to the minutes of the Federal Reserve's March 18-19 policy meeting.
The intense appetite for bonds spread into this week's auction of $64 billion worth of coupon-bearing debt, which raised $13.5 billion in new cash for the federal government.
The FOMC minutes suggested most policy-makers wanted to stick to a near-zero rate policy they adopted in December 2008 until the U.S. economy creates more jobs and an inflation rate that achieves its 2 percent target.
After the Fed released its summary of economic projections on March 19 and before the release of the latest Fed minutes, some traders had worried the Fed might raise rates earlier and at a faster pace than expected.
Compounding this perceived hawkish view were remarks by Fed Chair Janet Yellen at a press conference after the March policy meeting, when she said the Fed might increase rates a "considerable time" after it completed its bond-purchase program, a period she defined as "around six months."
The FOMC minutes, together with news of a mildly below-forecast 192,000 payroll increase in March a week ago, have sparked a rally in short- and medium-dated Treasuries, putting them on track for their best week since September.
The two-year note yield was poised to finish 6 basis points lower on the week and five-year yield 13 basis points lower.
"There could be more room for bonds to rally if equities continue this washout," Milstein said.
Friday's stronger-than-expected data on domestic producer prices and consumer sentiment capped the bond market's gains, challenging a view that domestic inflation will remain tame for a long time.
The Labor Department said its index of producer prices rose 0.5 percent last month for its biggest rise since June. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.1 percent increase.
The index's core reading, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, posted a 0.6 percent increase in March for its biggest monthly gain in three years.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary April reading on the overall index of consumer sentiment came in at 82.6, the highest since July, compared with a final reading of 80.0 in March.
These reports augured expectations of more upbeat U.S. data next week, which will include retail sales, consumer prices and housing starts, analysts and traders said.
"The data will turn more positive after the tough winter. I'm look for signs of a pickup in terms of growth," said Thomas di Galoma, head of fixed income rates at ED&F Man Capital Markets in New York. If the economy were to show an acceleration, yields should climb back to the middle of their trading ranges, di Galoma said.
Separately, the Fed bought $2.29 billion in government debt due in 2021 to 2024, which was part of its planned $30 billion purchases of Treasuries in April for its third round of quantitative easing.