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US Treasury yields fall after weakest retail sales data since 2009

U.S. government debt prices rose on Thursday as investors sought safety following disappointing retail sales data.

The 10-year Treasury note yield fell to 2.64 percent, while the 2-year rate dropped to 2.489 percent. Bond yields move inversely to prices. 

Retail sales fell 1.2 percent in December, marking their biggest monthly drop since September 2009, according to The Commerce Department. The department also said retail sales fell 0.9 percent in December when excluding gasoline station sales.

U.S. Markets Overview: Treasurys chart

Equities fell on the back of the report as well, with investors worried once again about the prospects of slower economic growth. 

"The bottom line on this data release is that it is truly dreadful pretty much across the board," Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies, said in a note. "Taken literally, this data release would indicate that the consumer sector collapsed in December. This release is such an outlier and so incongruous with the general trend in consumer spending, holiday consumer sales reports and holiday seasons consumer credit data that it does raise suspicions of data reliability."

"In the context of the government shutdown and delayed data collection, we still think that some suspicion is warranted," McCarthy said.

The data were enough to offset positive sentiment around U.S.-China trade talks. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that talks were "going very well" as both sides look to reach an agreement before early March.