Bonds ended little changed Friday following a report that showed consumer spending remains strong but within analysts' expectations.
The price of the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond ended up 5/32 point, or $1.56 per $1,000 invested. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction, fell to 5.96 percent from 5.97 percent late Thursday.A Commerce Department report Friday morning said personal incomes and consumer spending increased briskly in February for the second month in row.
Signs of a robust economy often depress bonds because of fears of rising inflation, something that reduces the value of fixed-income investments. But the gains had been anticipated and inflation has remained under wraps so far.
Economists, who are forecasting an economic slowdown this year, in part because of Asia's financial woes, conceded it hasn't happened yet. Economist Tim O'Neill of the Bank of Montreal said economic growth during this year's first quarter would be 3.25 percent to 3.75 percent, as strong or nearly as strong as the robust 3.7 percent rate in the last quarter of 1997.
Analysts still question whether first-quarter corporate profits will be strong. And the second quarter could well be weaker, said economist Lynn Reaser of NationsBank Corp. in Jacksonville, Fla.
Bond traders were also encouraged by the dollar's rise against other currencies. A strong dollar adds to the returns of foreign investments in dollar-denominated assets such as bonds.
Investors have shown little concern over a change in the course of interest rates in advance of next week's meeting of the Federal Reserve Board's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee. Most analysts doubt the Fed will alter rates before summer as it waits to see how financial troubles in Asian economies affect the U.S. economy.
In the broader market, prices of short-term Treasury securities were down 1/32 point, and intermediate maturities ranged from down 1/32 point to up 1/32 point, according to Dow Jones Markets, a financial information service.
The Lehman Brothers Daily Treasury Bond Index, reflecting price movements on bonds with maturities of a year or longer, was at 1,275.59, nudging up from 1,275.43 late Thursday.
Yields on three-month Treasury bills were 5.19 percent, as the discount held at 5.06 percent. Six-month yields were 5.17 percent as the discount remained unchanged at 4.98 percent. One-year yields were 5.40 percent as the discount slid 0.01 percentage point from Thursday's auction to 5.13 percent.
Yields are the interest bonds pay by maturity, while the discount is the interest at which they are sold.
The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, fell to 5.5 percent, from 6 percent late Thursday.
In the tax-exempt market, the Bond Buyer index of 40 actively traded municipal bonds fell 3/16 point to 123 3/32. The average yield to maturity rose to 5.26 percent, from 5.25 percent.