By Stefano Rebaudo
Nov 24 (Reuters) – Euro zone government bond yields were on track to close the week higher as investors balanced recession fears against comments from European Central Bank policymakers pushing against market expectations for rate cuts in 2024.
Borrowing costs rose the day before after economic data showed European economies were faring less badly than expected.
ECB Robert Holzmann, seen as a policy hawk, reiterated that another rate hike was possible, after Belgian policymaker Pierre Wunsch warned about “too optimistic” bets on future cuts.
Money markets scaled back their expectations for policy rate reductions this week and are currently pricing in 83 bps by December 2024 from over 100 bps last Friday, while implying a 55% chance for the first rate cut by April from about 90% at the end of last week.
Germany’s 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the euro area, was up 2 basis points (bps) at 2.64% a 1-1/2-week high.
It was on track to end the week up 5 bps.
“Overall, it (tight financial conditions) might lessen the need for officials to push back more aggressively, although some would point out the often-cited fragility of inflation expectations,” Benjamin Schroeder ING senior rate strategist argued in a note to clients.
The German economy shrank in the third quarter compared with the previous three months.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner will propose a supplementary budget for this year, which includes the suspension of limits on new borrowing, but vowed the country’s ruling coalition will follow a strict course of austerity after a budgetary crisis caused by a court ruling last week.
Analysts warned about a significant impact from a substantial economic growth hit if the German government found no solution to the budgetary crisis.
Italy’s 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the euro area’s periphery, rose 2.5 bps to 4.42%.
The spread between Italian and German 10-year yields – a gauge of the risk premium investors ask to hold debt from the bloc’s most indebted countries — was at 176 bps. It hit 169.5 bps, its tightest level from Sept. 21, on Tuesday after Moody’s improved the outlook of Italy’s rating.
ECB policymakers should discuss at their meeting next month whether to wind down bond reinvestments under the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) early, Austrian Governor Robert Holzmann said, suggesting to reduce reinvestments step by step as of March.
The ECB can use reinvestments from the PEPP to support bonds of southern Europe’s most indebted countries. Lagarde called it the first line of defence against fragmentation – an excess widening of yield spreads among the euro area’s bonds, which might hamper monetary policy transmission.
The central bank confirmed at its last policy meeting in October it would continue reinvestments from the PEPP until the end of 2024. However, President Lagarde said the council had yet to discuss the issue.
Several analysts expect PEPP reinvestments to end at its deadline in December next year.
(Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo, editing by David Evans) ;))