Italy sold 3.75 billion euros ($4.7 billion) of zero-coupon and inflation-linked bonds, the maximum planned for the auction, and yields plunged on optimism the European Central Bank will soon start buying sovereign debt to curb funding costs.
The Treasury sold 3 billion euros of zero-coupon 2014 debt to yield 3.064 percent, down from 4.86 percent at the previous auction on July 26. Investors bid for 1.95 times the amount offered, compared with 1.78 times last month. Italy also sold 750 million euros of 2016 and 2019 inflation-linked bonds.
“While Thursday’s sale of longer-dated paper presents a bigger test, the Treasury will be satisfied with the outcome of today’s auction,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said in an e-mailed comment. “Yet this is the summer lull and sentiment could easily take another turn for the worse next month if, as is likely, the ECB’s bond- buying program proves to be a disappointment.”
Italy seeks to sell as much as 9 billion euros of bills Thursday and up to 7.5 billion euros of five and 10-year debt on Friday. Italy’s 10-year yield rose 4 basis points to 5.7 percent at 12:11 p.m. Rome time, pushing the difference or spread, with similar-maturing German debt to 438 basis points.
Spain’s borrowing costs fell to the lowest in three months at an auction Thursday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hosts European Union President Herman Van Rompuy for the first in a series of meetings aimed at solving the nation’s funding issues.
ECB President Mario Draghi announced on Aug. 2 that the central bank may intervene in bond markets to lower yields in Italy and Spain if those governments request aid from the region’s bailout fund. Germany’s Bundesbank in its monthly report on Aug. 20 stepped up its criticism of the ECB plan, saying any government bond purchases would “entail significant stability risks.”
Draghi canceled his trip to the Federal Reserve’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Sept. 1, citing other engagements. He’s expected to announce details of the new bond-buying program when the ECB’s Governing Council meets on Sept. 6.
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