Five-year yields point to a possible rescue: Euro credit Is Portugal heading for a bailout? – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Five-year yields point to a possible rescue: Euro credit Is Portugal heading for a bailout?

LONDON (Bloomberg) The surge in Portuguese five-year note yields to record levels is adding to pressure on euro-area policy makers to resolve the region's sovereign-debt crisis.

The yield on the securities has climbed 49 basis points to 7.33 percent since February 11, and is now just 19 basis points less than that of 10-year debt. The increase for shorter-dated debt reflects increasing bailout risks in Portugal following the financial rescues of Greece and Ireland, said Mohit Kumar, a fixed-income strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in London.

“Both the level and the shape of the curve express a clear no-confidence vote,” said Michael Leister, a fixed-income analyst at WestLB AG in Dusseldorf, Germany. “Everyone is waiting for policy makers and hoping for a comprehensive solution.”

European Union leaders have given themselves until a March 24-25 summit to craft what German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called a “comprehensive” package to revive investor confidence in the region's bond market. Merkel told reporters yesterday that EU leaders will make a statement of “clear political commitment” to the euro when they meet on March 11.

Portugal will accept a financial bailout “within the next few weeks” as costs to issue debt become unsustainable, said Christopher Iggo, London-based chief investment officer for fixed income at Axa Investment Managers, which oversees $714 billion in assets.

“Borrowing costs are just too high,” Iggo said on February 28 in a telephone interview. “Ireland and Greece had to go for a bailout once their borrowing costs got that high, so I fully expect Portugal to go within the next few weeks.”

Portuguese bonds have lost 3.2 percent for investors this year, making them the worst performers in the sovereign debt market, according to indexes compiled by Bloomberg and the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies. Bond trading tumbled 71 percent in January from a year earlier to an average €82.3 million ($115 million) a day, Portugal's debt agency said on February 18.

The declines occurred even as the European Central Bank purchased almost €18 billion of Portuguese bonds, or 15 percent of the total outstanding debt, since May to support the market, analysts at Paris-based Societe Generale SA estimate.

A failure to resolve the debt crisis would risk “broader contagion,” heightening the potential for “capital flight,” Andrew Balls, a managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co., told reporters in London on February 28.

“The secondary market for Portuguese bonds is dysfunctional, mainly due to high volatility in the market mood,” Chiara Cremonesi, a market strategist at UniCredit SpA in London, said in a February 25 investor report.

Demand for Portuguese debt declined yesterday in a €550 million auction of six-month bills. The sale attracted bids for 2.6 times the amount offered, compared with a bid-to-cover ratio of 4.8 in February.

The 10-year Portuguese bond yield rose six basis points to 7.52 percent as of 5pm in London yesterday, after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said interest rates may be increased at the next meeting.

“The ECB's hawkishness is boosting the odds that Portugal seeks aid by the end of the month,” Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York, said in an e-mailed note yesterday.

Portugal needs to pay back debts to investors in April and June, adding to “pressure on Portuguese bonds,” after similar redemptions helped push Greece and Ireland toward bailouts, according to Ioannis Sokos, a London-based interest-rate strategist at BNP Paribas SA.

“Portugal has been able to fund itself so far in 2011 only under the expectation that whatever” is announced this month by euro-region officials will push yields lower, Sokos said. “Should policy makers not come up with something concrete then the hit on the Portuguese yield curve is going to be immediate.”

While the Portuguese government “has progressed its fiscal stabilisation and economic reforms in recent months,” the nation “could find itself forced to approach” the EU's rescue fund and the International Monetary Fund, Standard & Poor's said two days ago.

After meeting Merkel on Wednesday at the Chancellery in Berlin, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates reiterated that his country doesn't need external aid.

“Portugal has the means at its disposal to solve all of its problems,” Socrates said.

Merkel praised Portugal's policy changes and encouraged the government to stay the course.

“Germany trusts Portugal to take the right measures,” she said during a joint news conference with Socrates. “Portugal is on a very, very good path. In Europe, we succeed together or we don't succeed at all. All of us have to keep up the effort.”

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates.

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Published March 04, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 04, 2011 at 9:44 am)

Five-year yields point to a possible rescue: Euro credit Is Portugal heading for a bailout?

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