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Treasurys continue 2008 advance. Government bonds up as administration says it may confront Iranians if ships were threatened

January 08, 2008 | CNN

Treasury prices rallied Monday, capitalizing on concerns about potential conflict with Iran and a slowing economy.

Treasury prices opened almost flat but shot into positive territory after midmorning reports that the Bush administration warned Iran against repeating a Sunday incident in which Iranian boats allegedly harassed three U.S. Navy ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: "We urge the Iranians to refrain from such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident in the future."

Treasurys, which are backed by the federal government, often perform well when there are worries that international tensions could destabilize markets and undermine assets, or when the economy appears to be in danger.

"It does look like the Iranian situation has added a little geopolitical risk into the market," said Kim Rupert, managing director of fixed income at Action Economics.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 11/32 to close at 103 11/32 with a yield of 3.84 percent, down from 3.87 percent late Friday. Prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The 30-year long bond gained 29/32 to 111 with a yield of 4.34 percent, down from 4.38 percent late Friday.

The 2-year note was unchanged at 100 20/32 with a yield of 2.75 percent, unchanged from late Friday.

The yield on the 3-month note rose to 3.27 percent from 3.19 percent Friday as the discount rate advanced to 3.19 percent from 3.11 percent.

The renewed concerns about U.S.-Iranian relations built on a Treasury market rally at the start of 2008 that was triggered by worries that the U.S. economy is weakening and could slip into recession.

Paulson: No simple solution to housing crisis
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in a speech on Monday stressed that there is no simple solution to the housing crisis and that the correction now seen in residential real estate is "inevitable and necessary."

Although investors may not wish to see a recession, they are aware that a protracted slowdown could convince the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy with generous rate reductions this year. The central bank's next monetary policy meeting is on Jan. 29-30.

The Fed in 2007 reduced the federal funds rate - the rate that interest banks charge each other on overnight loans - by a full percentage point.

The Treasury market on Friday announced an auction of $8 billion in 10-year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, which are adjusted regularly so investors do not lose value from inflation.

The auction, which will be held on Jan. 15, could meet strong demand as there are growing concerns about rising inflation, given recent increases in the price of crude oil and other commodities.


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