Interest rates fell in the bond market Wednesday after a private sector report provided a surprising reminder that the job market remains weak.
Payroll company ADP said employers slashed 23,000 jobs in March. That's worse than the 40,000 jobs economists expected to be added during the month.
The news, which comes just days before the release of key monthly jobs data from the government, spurred many investors to sell stocks and seek out the safety of government securities.
Treasury bond prices usually rise and yields fall when there are concerns about economic growth. Investors also view government bonds as safe investments, while stocks typically are seen as risky but also offering bigger returns.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year note maturing in February 2020 fell to 3.84 percent in afternoon trading Wednesday from 3.86 percent late Tuesday. Its price rose 5/32 at 98 7/32. The yield of the 10-year note is linked to interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.
The ADP report, released Wednesday morning, is seen as an early indicator of the Labor Department's closely watched employment report, which is due out Friday.
The unemployment rate currently sits at 9.7 percent.
The Labor Department's report is expected to show employers added 190,000 jobs in March. It would be only the second month that jobs were created in the U.S. economy since the recession began in late 2007.
Employment and the strength of the consumer are considered keys to a strong, sustained economic recovery.
The ADP report overshadowed news from the Commerce Department that factory orders rose 0.6 percent last month. Economists, polled by Thomson Reuters, forecast an increase of 0.5 percent.
The bond market will be open half a day on Friday, even as the stock market closes for Good Friday.
In other trading, the yield on the two-year note that matures in March 2012 fell to 1.03 percent from 1.07 percent Tuesday. Its price rose 2/32 to 99 30/32.
The yield on 30-year bond that matures in February 2040 fell to 4.72 percent from 4.75 percent. Its price rose 13/32 to 98 14/32.
The yield on the three-month T-bill that matures July 1 rose to 0.16 percent from 0.14 percent.
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