US Treasury yields rebound after Fed says inflation decline is 'transient'

U.S. government debt yields rebounded on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that the central bank sees a decline in inflation as merely temporary and not yet a worrisome sign for the economy.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note trimmed losses to around the flatline at 2.514%, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond dipped to 2.919%. The 2-year Treasury note yield, which moves inversely with price, reversed an initial 6-basis-point drop and was last seen 4 basis points higher at 2.312%.

The central bank held its benchmark rate in a target between 2.25% and 2.5%, matching investor expectations. The Fed, however, did adjust its language about inflation, noting a more anemic rise in prices during the first few months of 2019.

However, in a press conference following the Fed's statement, Powell added that while the Fed did observe the inflation downtick, he and others at the central bank believe that the lethargic price action is just temporary.

"We think our policy stance is appropriate at the moment and we don't see a strong case for moving in either direction," Powell told CNBC's Steve Liesman. "We say in our statement of longer-run goals and monetary policy strategy that the Committee would be concerned if inflation were running persistently above or below 2%."

"And in this case, as we look at these readings in the first quarter for core, we do see good reasons to think that some were or all of the unexpected decrease may wind up being transient," he added.

Inflation, a critical topic for the Fed, threatens the value of government bonds by eroding the purchasing power of their fixed payments and is often cited by the central bank when it raises borrowing costs to try to cool down the economy. The central bank uses rates to try to balance maximum U.S. employment with stable price growth.

Fed officials have historically viewed 2% inflation as a level consistent with that of a healthy economy. Some Fed officials have grown more cautious as so-called core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy categories, as struggled to hold at the central bank's target.

That could leave the Fed without much room to cut rates should it ever want to combat a downturn in the economy with cheaper lending.

Still, the Fed's statement didn't mark a significant change from their prior commentary and provided little evidence for those thinking the central bank could cut its overnight rate later this year, J.P. Morgan Chief U.S. Economist Mike Feroli told CNBC.

Wednesday's statement "isn't trying to send a message. I think it's trying to convey how they're reading things. Which is: Growth is better, inflation is softer – all of that we knew before," Feroli said. "If you thought they were kind of teeing up for a cut I would have thought you'd change something more than they did. They didn't change anything on inflation expectations."


Yields had been broadly lower on the day ahead of the Fed's announcement.

Rates dipped after the Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity slowed to its slowest pace since October 2016 in April. The ISM manufacturing PMI fell to 52.8 last month from 55.3 in March. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a print of 55.

"ISM Manufacturing for April disappointed across the board," said Jon Hill, rates strategist at BMO Capital Markets, in a note. The number contrasts "with the narrative of a stabilizing economy."

"For now, we're interpreting the flattening of the curve as reflecting the assumption that the Fed will remain stubbornly on hold while inflation remains elusive and growth worries persist," Hill added.

ISM's weak number overshadowed stronger-than-forecast jobs data. Private payrolls rose 275,000 in April, according to data from ADP and Moody's Analytics.