Italy keeps debt costs in check at 10-year auction

MILAN Fri Dec 28, 2012 4:51pm IST

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's debt costs rose only slightly at its last auction of long-term debt in 2012, drawing a solid response from investors yet to be unnerved by the risks surrounding February elections and the exit of its trusted technocrat government.

The treasury sold 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) of its 10-year bond paying a yield of 4.48 percent, up from 4.45 percent at a similar sale one month ago.

It also placed 2.87 billion euros of five-year bonds paying 3.26 percent, up from 3.23 percent at end-November sale.

In very thin market conditions Rome was able to find decent demand for its bonds among investors searching for high returns, reflecting the easing of at least some concerns in the euro zone's debt crisis since August.

"It seems that the result was better than expected, with the yield on the 10-year lower than in the secondary market," said Emile Cardon, market economist at Rabobank in Utrecht.

Markets are starting to focus on an uncertain Italian election campaign as the country approaches elections scheduled on 24-25 February.

Investors, however, seem to be willingly to buy Italian debt while waiting for more clarity on domestic politics.

"The biggest fear for the market is that political turmoil in Italy will return. But this outcome shows (investors) still have confidence that Italy will do the right thing and I think this has something to do with the comeback of (outgoing Prime Minister Mario) Monti."

The technocrat premier announced on Sunday he would consider seeking a second term as Italian prime minister if approached by allies committed to backing his austere brand of reforms.

Monti resigned last week, just over a year after being appointed at the helm of an unelected government to save Italy from financial crisis.

While it is still unclear which parties will support the outgoing premier, his commitment may bring economic reforms at the center of the political debate.

Italy had planned to sell up to 6 billion euros of both issues after having placed 11.75 billion euros of short-dated debt on Thursday. ($1 = 0.7563 euros)

(Additional reporting by London bond desk, Gabriella Bruschi and Giulio Piovaccari in Milan)

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