Long-term government bond prices slipped oil Thursday as rising commodity prices rekindled inflation fears.
Blue-chip stocks retreated after rallying on Wednesday. The dollar surged against the German mark but fell against the yen.
At 4 p.m., the price of the Treasury's 30-year bond was down 3/8. This raised the yield to 6.01% from 5.97% on Wednesday.
But prices of other maturities were mixed in thin holiday trading. Ten-year notes were up 1/32, lowering the yield to 5.36% from 5.37%. Five-year notes were up 3/32, to yield 4.71%, and two-year notes off 1/32, to yield 3.86%.
In the short-term sector, the bond-equivalent yield of the three-month bill was unchanged at 3.01%.
The Treasury sold $15.3 billion of one-year bills at an average discount rate of 3.27%, the lowest since April.
Slow Growth Indicated
The day's economic news supported the view that the economy is growing at a slow pace.
The Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit fell 14% in July. Typically, a narrowing of the trade gap is a bullish economic indicator. However, this narrowing of the trade gap generated less than normal enthusiasm because it reflected reduced imports rather than higher exports.
In addition, the government said that industrial production rose 0.2% in July and that new claims for unemployment insurance increased 2,000 in the week ended Sept. 11.
Bond market analysts attributed the weakness in the long bond to higher commodity prices, mostly due to a rise in precious metals.
The Commodity Research Bureau's futures index rose 1.38 points, or 0.6%, to 214.16. On the New York Commodity Exchange, gold finished at $353 an ounce, up $5.10.
Gold which had sputtered in recent weeks on reduced inflation expectations and reported sales by hedge funds, has come roaring back this week, partly on the strength of European purchases.
Since gold is a traditional inflation hedge, its price tends to move in the opposite direction of Treasuries.
William Sullivan, money market economist at Dean Witter, Discover & Co., said the long end may also have been pressured by Italy's mammoth $5.5 billion 30-year bond offering, which was priced on Thursday.
In addition, mortgage-backed securities have outperformed the Treasury market in recent days, and some money managers may have moved out of Treasuries into mortgages, analysts said.
Stocks Kept in Check
Concern about today's "triple-witching" expiration of futures and options kept stocks in check. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.80 points, to 3.639.5. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2-.17 to. 459.43. But the Nasdaq composite index was up 0.24 to 739.79.
In the foreign exchange market, the dollar surged against the mark after the government announced that the trade gap had narrowed.
The currency also benefited from short-covering after a large purchase of dollars, analysts said. The dollar finished at 1.6015 marks, up from 1.5950 on Wednesday.
However, the dollar sank against the yen amid disappointment about an economic stimulus program announced by Japan on Thursday. The program did not include tax or rate cuts that would have spurred U.S. exports. The currency finished at 104.12 yen, down from 105.85.