Portugese tension worsens, bond yields increase

Portugese tension worsens, bond yields increase

LISBON - Reuters
Portuguese bond yields surged to more than 8 percent yesterday as a government crisis prompted investors to shun the bailed-out country, raising concerns about a renewed bout of euro zone debt trauma.

Stocks on the Lisbon bourse fell sharply and the cost of insuring Portuguese bonds against default rose to the highest level since November.

The resignation earlier this week of two ministers threatened to force an election over continued budget austerity, risking Portugal’s goal of exiting its 78-billion-euro bailout by returning to regular bond markets next year.

Portugal’s president summoned main political parties for crisis talks over the government’s future with markets reeling on fears that a snap election could derail Lisbon’s exit from an international bailout.

Portugal’s bond yields surged to levels near which it was forced to seek international aid two years ago. Prices suggested scant liquidity, or money flow, was exaggerating the moves, however.

Portugal, however, may not meet the criteria as it is not fully back in the bond market yet.

“(The situation) will ... bring back discussion on whether the ECB has any interest in trying to prevent further increases in Portuguese yields,” said Elwin de Groot, senior market economist at Rabobank said.

Contagion risk

The sell-off extended to Italian and Spanish debt, but was less pronounced there. Investors favoured safety, securing demand at a German auction in line with this year’s 1.9 bid-cover average.

Ten-year Portuguese yields surged at one point to 8.2 percent - their highest since November 2012 and were on track for their biggest daily rise since January 2012. They last stood 147 basis points higher at 7.99 percent.

Portugal would have to be growing at a 7-8 percent annual rate to be able to afford servicing its debt at these yield levels in the long run, de Groot said. The economy contracted 4 percent on an annual basis in the first quarter.

The difference between the yield implied by prices buyers offered and those sellers wanted to be paid for Portuguese 10-year bonds was last 292 basis points, double Tuesday’s levels and the widest since August 2012. It suggested very low liquidity.

The gap in Italy, by contrast, was just 17 basis points.

Ten-year Spanish and Italian borrowing costs rose sharply but held below 5 percent. Ten-year Irish yields rose 8 basis points to 4.05 percent. Ireland is seen as on track to exit its bailout.

Greek 10-year yields surged 44 basis point to 11.62 percent, further inverting the yield curve and suggesting investors see an increased risk of default.