May 20, 2014 / 8:13 PM / 3 years ago

TREASURIES-U.S. bond prices rise on Dudley comments, safety bids

* Fed’s Dudley says rate hikes will be slow

* Five-year Treasury prices rise most

* U.S. stock market declines fuel bids for safety

* Ukraine tensions eyed (Adds updated prices and fresh comments)

By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK, May 20 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasuries prices rose on Tuesday after a Federal Reserve official said the central bank will likely be slow in raising interest rates and as weak corporate earnings drove safe-haven bids.

The Fed likely will be “relatively slow” in hiking interest rates, New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley said at a New York event. The comment came after Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in March that the central bank could raise rates six months after its bond-buying program ended.

“(Dudley) was very dovish,” said Priya Misra, head of U.S. rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. She said that the comment likely boosted prices on five-year Treasury notes since investors viewed the comment as making the notes less vulnerable to price losses from a Fed hike in rates.

Yellen’s comments on March 19 had worried investors and sent yields on five-year Treasury notes up about 15 basis points to 1.7 percent. Bond yields move inversely to their prices.

Weak corporate earnings from companies such as TJX Cos Inc and Staples Inc hurt sentiment on Wall Street, which resulted in some safe-haven bids for U.S. Treasuries. Geopolitical tensions surrounding Ukraine also supported safe-haven bids ahead of Ukraine elections on May 25.

Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine will deepen political divisions in the country if there is no end to hostilities and a “road map” to end the crisis is not implemented, a senior Russian official was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s election “seems to be in focus” with renewed attention being paid to the tension between Ukraine and Russia, said Ellis Phifer, market strategist at Raymond James in Memphis, Tennessee.

Five-year U.S. Treasury notes were last up 4/32 in price to yield 1.513 percent, from a yield of 1.539 percent late Monday. Prices on 30-year Treasuries bonds were last up 3/32, with yields at 3.379 percent, compared with a yield of 3.38 percent late Monday.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes were last up 6/32 in price to yield 2.51 percent from a yield of 2.54 percent late Monday.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was down 0.59 percent, as investors assessed some of the final corporate results of earnings season. (Reporting by Sam Forgione; Additional reporting by Michael Flaherty; Editing by Dan Grebler; and Peter Galloway)

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