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U.S. government debt yields dropped on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said it will be "patient" when making decisions about future monetary policy. The Fed also removed reference to "further gradual increases" to the federal funds rate in its statement, a signal some market participants took to mean that it may slow the pace of interest rate increases in 2019.
In a separate release, FOMC members also mentioned the reduction to the central bank's balance sheet. The committee issued a separate three-paragraph statement noting that "it is appropriate at this time to provide additional information regarding its plans to implement monetary policy over the long run."
At 2:34 p.m. ET, the yield on the benchmark 2-year Treasury note was up at 2.538 percent while the 10-year Treasury note yield was higher at around 2.706 percent. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was mostly unchanged at 3.054 percent. Yields fall as bond prices rise.
The Fed's balance sheet is a mix of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities which it bought in an effort to lower long-run rates during and after the financial crisis. At its peak, the balance sheet ran to $4.5 trillion after being less than a $1 trillion before the stimulus program began.
Fed officials had thought the rolloff would proceed with little ado, but investors grew nervous about the "quantitative tightening" as opposed to easing, since. Powell first indicated that the Fed could have "patience" when he sat on a panel with former Fed chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen in early January, a soothing phrase for many market participants.
"Everything that the market was expecting the Fed to say — and hoping they were going to say — was said," said Kevin Giddis, head of fixed income capital markets at Raymond James. "The key word obviously was 'patient,' at least for the equity market. The bond market continued to be pretty unfazed, thinking that the Fed is doing what it should be."
Fed members left the benchmark overnight lending rate unchanged between a range of 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent at their January meeting. The Fed increased rates four times in 2018.
"Our guess all along was that they wouldn't make a move on rates until June and that seems to keep being pushed out," Giddis added, referring to additional hikes to the federal funds rate. "Now maybe it's September."
Private payrolls grew in January at a speedy pace as employers shrugged off the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, according to data released Wednesday by ADP and Moody's Analytics. Companies added 213,000 jobs this month, the data show. Economists polled by Refinitiv expected payrolls to grow by 178,000.
— CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed reporting.