Treasury yields edge off highs amid Fedspeak trifecta

Getty Images

U.S. government debt prices rose on Thursday after three members of the U.S. Federal Reserve presented their views on the state of the economy.

Yields on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note dropped to 1.8769 percent from around 1.91 percent after Altlanta Fed Presdient Dennis Lockhart sounded a dovish tone in a speech. Meanwhile, the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond traded at 2.5591 percent, down from an earlier high of about 2.5907 percent.

"Some factors at work in recent months were clearly transitory in nature, and some other factors have triggered rapid adjustment in certain sectors of the economy," Lockhart said in a speech. "Together, they are giving rise to heightened uncertainty about the track the economy is on."

In a separate speech, Cleveland Fed governor Loretta J. Mester sounded a bit more confident about the economy, contending that the harsh winter exacted a toll on growth and the trend would be reversed in coming months. Mester said she would be comfortable with liftoff from current policy so long as the economy regains its footing as she expects.

"On balance, I expect that after a weak first quarter, U.S. economic growth will strengthen, averaging about 3 percent over the remainder of this year and next. This is somewhat above my estimate of 2.5 percent longer-run growth," Mester said during a speech in New York, according to prepared remarks. "The above-trend growth I am projecting will support continued improvement in labor markets, one of the factors that will figure into the (Federal Open Market Committee's) assessment of the appropriate timing of liftoff."

Finally, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said in another speech that the central bank needs to hold off on raising rates, as the criteria for doing so has not been met.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index rose to 7.5 from 5.0 the month before. That topped economists' expectations for a reading of 6.0, according to a Reuters poll.

Earlier, yields were propped up by remarks from Stanley Fischer, the Fed's vice chairman. Fischer told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Thursday that the U.S. economy is currently on a rebound.

"We'll see at what speed it proceeds, but the first quarter was poor. That seems to be a new seasonal pattern. It's been that way for about four of the last five years," he said.

"My impression is the Fed is saying one thing and the market is hearing another. The Fed is saying it would have to be a really, really bad economic outlook for us to not go forward with the liftoff rate hike," said Ian Lyngen, senior Treasury strategist at CRT.

Read MoreCatastrophe bond issuance spikes as sovereign yields slide


U.S. housing starts rose far less than expected in March and permits recorded their biggest drop since last May, which could raise concerns about the economy's ability to bounce back from a soft patch hit in the first quarter.

Groundbreaking increased 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 926,000 units, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That left the bulk of February's decline, which had been blamed on bad weather, intact.

U.S. jobless claims rose by 12,000 to a seasonably-adjusted 294,000.

Why EU investors fancy US Treasurys

U.S. crude settled at a new 2015 high.

In Europe, Greece was in the spotlight after Standard & Poor's cut the country's credit rating to "CCC+" from "B-" with a negative outlook on Wednesday.

—CNBC's Jeff Cox and Reuters contributed to this report.