Yields tumble to 3-month lows amid flight to safety

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Government debt yields fell to multimonth lows Thursday, with the 10-year yield slumping below 2.1 percent as stock prices declined on worries over the global economic outlook.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note closed at 2.127 percent, unchanged from Wednesday's close, which was its lowest since May.

The 30-year Treasury bond increased a full point in price, pushing the yield down by about 5 basis points to 2.76 percent. Prices move inversely to yields.

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Yields on short-term maturities declined as well, albeit slightly. The yield curve between five-year notes and 30-year bonds narrowed to 127 basis points.

"I think that the Fed minutes have gotten us into questioning the assumption of a September rate hike," said Ian Lyngen, senior Treasury strategist at CRT Capital.

"We've seen that largely priced out of the market. We've seen global equities under pressure as well as domestic equities under pressure. With risk assets coming off, there's been a relative flight to quality."


U.S. bonds, which are viewed as "safe-haven" assets, were boosted by the decline in oil prices as well as in global equities. Benchmark U.S. stock indexes fell by more than 1.5 percent, with consumer discretionary and IT shares falling the most.

U.S. crude oil hovered around 6 ½-year lows and last traded at about $41.30 per barrel, flat on the day. Brent crude was down slightly at about $47 a barrel. U.S. crude and Brent prices have fallen about 22 percent and 18 percent, respectively, since the beginning of the year.

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Gold prices broke above $1,150 an ounce, rising to the highest level since July 15 as the U.S. eased in reaction to the minutes from the Fed's July 28-29 policy meeting.

Thursday's trading session hasn't been about "the data or anything more fundamental for the U.S. outside of a continuation of the rethinking of the Fed," Lyngen said.

The Fed minutes were seen as a relatively dovish sign that it would likely not raise interest rates in September, when it meets again.

The central bank has indicated that raising rates is data dependent and the most relevant information is employment and inflation counts.

With that in mind, investors kept an eye on the latest weekly jobless claims, which came in at 277,000, slightly above the consensus estimate of 272,000.

Existing home sales for July were reported at 5.59 million, an eight-year high, above the expected 5.44 million, while leading indicators dropped 0.2 percent in June. Economists were expecting a 0.6 percent increase in leading indicators.

The Philadelphia Fed survey index came in at 8.3, well above the expected 6.75.

CNBC's Patti Domm and CNBC staff contributed to this report.