Italy borrowing rates drop again in bond auction

AP News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2012 7:22 AM
Italy borrowing rates drop again in bond auction

Italy saw its borrowing costs drop for a second day in a row Friday as it easily raised euro4.75 billion ($6 billion) in a bond auction that indicated improving investor confidence in the country's financial future.

Investors demanded an interest rate of 4.83 percent to lend Italy three-year money, down from an average rate of 5.62 percent in the previous auction and far lower than the 7.89 percent in November, when the country's financial crisis was most acute.

Italy paid lower rates for bonds with other maturities, as far out as 2018, that it also sold in Friday's auctions. Demand was between 1.2 percent and 2.2 percent times what was on offer.

Although investor interest was good and the interest rates fell, the results were not as strong as those of bond auctions the previous day, when Italy raised euro12 billion ($15 million) and Spain saw huge demand for its own debt sale.

Marc Ostwald, strategist at Monument Securities, said market reaction will likely be disappointing compared with the successful bond auctions on Thursday.

"Overall it underscores that while all the auctions in the eurozone have been battle victories, the war is a long way from being resolved (either way)," he said in a note. "These euro area auctions will continue to present themselves as market risk events for a very protracted period."

Italy's euro1.9 trillion ($2.42 trillion) in government debt and heavy borrowing needs this year have made it a focal point of the European debt crisis. Fitch Ratings Agency, which has said it will consider whether to downgrade Italy's credit rating by the end of the month, estimates the country needs to borrow euro360 billion ($458 billion) this year.

Italy has passed austerity measures and is on a structural reform course that Premier Mario Monti claims should bring down Italy's high bond yields, which he says are no longer warranted.