US Treasury yields slip after ECB rate decision, jobless claims

  • The European Central Bank dropped its easing bias on Thursday, fueling expectations that it will normalize monetary policy in the euro area.
  • President Trump signs steel and aluminum tariffs that exempt Canada and Mexico and leave door open to other countries.

U.S. government debt yields slipped Thursday following the European Central Bank's decision to hold interest rates steady and after President Donald Trump signed steel and aluminum tariffs.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was lower at 2.859 percent at 4:19 p.m. ET, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was also lower at 3.127 percent. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

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The European Central Bank (ECB) dropped its easing bias but held rates steady in its Thursday meeting. The central bank has, until now, stated that it stands ready to augment its bond purchasing should the economic outlook in the European Union falter.

ECB President Mario Draghi said that the ongoing economic recovery in the region reinforces the central bank's decision to remove the so-called easing bias.

"Incoming information... confirms the strong and broad-based growth momentum in the euro area economy, which is projected to expand in the near-term at a somewhat faster pace than previously expected."

Though the bank tweaked its bias on its quantitative easing program toward a more hawkish stance, some thought Draghi's comments undermined the move.

"In his press conference, Draghi was more disposed to his 'dovish' instincts," said Thierry Wizman, global interest rates and currencies strategist at Macquarie Group. "Although the growth projection was raised for 2018, Draghi was careful to suggest that this should not be associated with higher inflation."

Investors will monitor the political situation in the U.S. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would likely formalize any details on his tariff proposal, including exemptions, later this week.

"We expect that the president will sign something by the end of the week, and there are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries as well," she said.

Ahead of the all-important nonfarm payrolls data due out on Friday, investors poured over the latest unemployment claims report.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rebounded last week from a more than 48-year low, though the ongoing trend continues to suggest to a strong labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 231,000 for the week ended March 3, the Labor Department said. Claims dropped to 210,000 in the prior week, which was the lowest level since December 1969.

In Washington, President Trump signed two controversial proclamations that implement a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum but exempts Canada and Mexico.

"A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security," Trump said. "You don't have steel, you don't have a country."

The taxes are opposed by numerous free-trade Republican and Democratic politicians as well as a host of foreign leaders.

—CNBC's Annette Weisbach and Mike Calia contributed to this report