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U.S. Borrows for 30 Years at a Lower Cost Than Ever Before

Elizabeth Stanton

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government’s sale of 30-year bonds Thursday drew a record low yield of 2.061% after the Treasury rally spurred by the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in China and around the world helped drive rates across the curve to multi-month lows.

The previous all-time low for a 30-year sale was 2.17% in October. The auction fared better than expected, as trading in the minutes before the 1 p.m. New York time bidding deadline suggested a yield closer to 2.07%. Thursday’s new issue sale also resulted in an unprecedented low coupon rate of 2%, down from the previous record of 2.25%

While “symbolic in a sense” as the lowest ever, a 2% coupon on the 30-year bond “might feel like a great number if we get an anchored yield curve,” George Goncalves, an independent bond strategist, said before the sale. That would occur if the short-term interest rates set by the Federal Reserve return to zero, pulling front-end yields lower and forcing investors to move into longer maturities in pursuit of higher returns.

The Treasury Department auctions 30-year bonds every month -- a new issue every three months that determines the coupon rate, followed by two re-openings of that same security to expand the size of the offering. The sizes of these are published by the Treasury each quarter, with the most recent announcement taking place last week.

Longer-dated yields rose in the immediate aftermath of last week’s refunding announcement, with the curve steepening after the Treasury left market participants with the impression that it won’t reduce 10- or 30-year auction sizes to accommodate new issuance at the 20-year tenor. The 30-year yield rose as high as 2.16%, although it has since pulled back to around 2.07%. It is still above last year’s record secondary-market low of 1.904%.

“Yields are generally where they are because of uncertainty about coronavirus, how much it will weaken China’s economy and how much further it will spread to the rest of the world,” said Timothy High, a strategist at BNP Paribas said ahead of the auction. “At the end of the day there’s a lot of demand for long-end duration.”

(Updates with auction result)

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Stanton in New York at estanton@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benjamin Purvis at bpurvis@bloomberg.net, Nick Baker

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