NEW YORK: US Treasury yields rose to four-week highs on Monday as investors moved to the sideline in anticipation of possible clues on the pace of interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve with evidence of a cooling economic expansion.
A reluctance to make fresh bets hurt the $26 billion auction of two-year notes, which was the first part of the $88 billion in coupon-bearing securities the government planned to sell this week.
"Nobody wants to do too much ahead of the Fed meeting," Stone & McCarthy Research Associates' market strategist John Canavan in Princeton, New Jersey said, citing the day's below-average trading volume.
An unexpected drop in domestic new home sales in March supported a view of weak economic growth in the first quarter and rekindled some bids for US government debt. Upward revisions of prior months' sales muted the initial negative perception of March's figure, analysts said.
In light of recent disappointing car sales and data on trade and factory activity, almost no analysts and investors expected the US central bank to hike policy rates at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Fed is expected to lift the target range on rates by a quarter point at its June meeting to 0.50-0.75 percent, according to a Reuters poll last week.
"They want to keep June on the table, but it's going to be difficult. There's no incentive for them to raise rates," said Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research in New York.
US benchmark 10-year Treasury notes dipped 3/32 in price with the yield at 1.899 percent, up 1 basis point on the day. Earlier Monday, the 10-year yield reached 1.907 percent, its highest since March 28 according to Reuters.
The two-year note's yield, which is sensitive to traders' views on Fed policy, was 0.834 percent, 1 basis point above Friday's close.
The latest two-year issue cleared at a yield of 0.842 percent, compared with a yield of 0.877 percent at the prior auction in March.
Investors bought fewer two-year notes than in March, leaving primary dealers or the 23 top Wall Street firms to absorb their biggest share of two-month supply in five months.
The Treasury Department will sell $34 billion in five-year debt on Tuesday and $28 billion in seven-year notes on Thursday.