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TREASURY BOND PRICES DIP IN A QUIET SESSION

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Treasury bond prices drifted mostly lower in a quiet session Friday as a lack of major economic news gave traders room to take some profits and mull the Federal Reserve's stance on interest rates.

Some buying of newly issued corporate bonds this week also may have drained purchasing power from the government bond market.The price of the Treasury's main 30-year bond fell 3/8 point, or $3.75 per $1,000 in face value, while its yield rose to 6.44 percent from 6.41 percent on Thursday. Prices and yields move in opposite directions.

"It's not a very exciting day if you look at the pricing. We've had a fairly narrow range," said Dan Seto, a senior economist at Nikko Securities International Co. "We did get some new insights on what Fed officials are thinking."

Reported comments from Fed Vice Chairwoman Alice Rivlin and Fed Governor Susan Phillips, he said, subtly suggested to traders that an easing of interest rates may not be coming soon and there's still a chance the economy could reaccelerate. Traders see lower interest rates as good news, since they make existing bonds more valuable.

While just a month ago the market was almost universally looking for the Fed to raise rates, traders are now starting to talk about a rate reduction to give the slowing economy a boost.

Also affecting trading was some profit-taking early in the session that pushed prices lower. Government bonds have been rallying of late, with the 30-year bond yield dropping to an eight-month low of 6.40 percent as recently as Wednesday.

"I don't really think there's a lot going on here," said David H. Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. "We're still in a rally mode for the market. We're going to see higher prices consistent with a modest-growth, low-inflation world."

Prices of short-term Treasury securities were unchanged to down 1/32 point and intermediate maturities fell 1/32 point to 3/32 point, reported Dow Jones Telerate Inc., a financial information service.

The Lehman Brothers Daily Treasury Bond Index, reflecting price movements on bonds with maturities of a year or longer, fell 0.96 point to 1,261.11.

Yields on three-month Treasury bills were 5.15 percent as the discount stood unchanged at 5.03 percent. Six-month yields were 5.25 percent as the discount was unchanged at 5.06 percent. One-year yields rose to 5.41 percent as the discount gained 0.01 percentage point to 5.14 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, stood at 5.19 percent, down from 5.31 percent Thursday.

In the tax-exempt market, the Bond Buyer index of 40 actively traded municipal bonds closed unchanged from Thursday at 117 15/16. The average yield to maturity remained at 5.71 percent.