Bonds

10-year Treasury yield falls to three-year low on coronavirus fears, 30-year rate hits record low

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Investors struggling to find safe havens amid coronavirus crisis: strategist

Treasury yields tumbled on Monday as investors ran for cover amid fears the coronavirus is spreading globally and will slow the world economy.

The 10-year Treasury yield hit its lowest level since July 2016. The 30-year Treasury yield hit a record low. The move into bonds came as stocks plunged with the Dow down more than 1,000 points.

Treasurys

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to price, plunged 11 basis points to 1.3563%. The 10-year yield reached an intraday all-time low of 1.325% on July 6, 2016.

The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond plummeted to 1.8142%. Meanwhile, 2-year yield hit a low of 1.243% on Monday, its lowest level since May 2017.

"Global pandemic concerns catalyzed an intuitive rotation out of risk assets and into safe havens to start the week," Ian Lyngen, BMO's head of U.S. rates, said in a note Monday. "The most important number in the US Treasury market has become ... the all-time record low yield mark set in the aftermath of Brexit. If that level is breached, look out below."

Spiking coronavirus cases in Italy, South Korea and the Middle East sparked fears of further spread beyond China. South Korea put the country on its highest alert level on Monday as infections surpassed 760 and deaths rose to seven.

Meanwhile, a seventh person in Italy has died from the virus with the number of cases surging to more than 150. As of Sunday, confirmed cases of the infection has surged to 79,400 globally and the death toll has risen to 2,621.

Tumbling yields

Both the 10-year and 30-year yields are down nearly 60 basis points so far this year. Coronavirus fears, coupled with the lack of inflation, pushed bond yields to record lows once again. Investors also attributed the moves in yields to global central banks' easing measures.

Amid the escalated coronavirus fears, traders are now pricing in a better-than-even – 53% – chance of an interest rate cut at the Federal Reserve's April meeting, according to the CME. The market also assigns a 40% of three cuts before the end of 2020.

The bond market has been flashing its recession signal for a while now. Last summer, the benchmark 10-year yields dipped below the 2-year rate, inverting a key part of the yield curve. The inversion has been a reliable recession indicator as the phenomenon has preceded every recession over the past 50 years.

While the 2-year 10-year yield curve is no longer inverted, the 10-year yield remains lower than the 3-month rate. This part of the yield curve is also closely watched by the Fed for signs of a downturn.

— CNBC's Elliott Smith contributed reporting