May 9, 2019 / 8:09 AM / 13 days ago

Irish and Spanish bond sales could underline move away from "periphery"

* Political ructions no issue for Irish, Spanish bond markets

* Ireland launches 30-yr syndication, Spanish auction due

* Italian debt lags as coalition worries mount

* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr

By Abhinav Ramnarayan

LONDON, May 9 (Reuters) - Irish and Spanish borrowing costs were close to record lows on Thursday ahead of planned bond sales that could well cement their move away from the “periphery”, a phrase used to describe the lower-rated and more volatile euro zone bond markets.

Even though political issues are clouding the outlook for both countries, with Spanish coalition talks rumbling on and an uncertain Brexit outcome hanging over Ireland, their debt has been in heavy demand in recent weeks.

Benchmark Irish 10-year bond yields were close to their lowest since December 2017 at 0.495 percent while Spanish 10-year yields were near a 2-1/2 year low at 0.96 percent.

In addition, analysts expect to see strong demand as both countries prepare to sell long-dated debt later on Thursday; Ireland in the shape of a 30-year syndicated debt issue and Spain with an auction of five, 10 and 30-year debt.

“Good demand for these sales today confirms the favourable backdrop for issuance and also shows that the Spain and Ireland convergence with the semi-core has come a long way,” said Commerzbank rates strategist Rainer Guntermann. “This is reflected in the improving ratings we have seen.”

Indeed, Ireland has had a Single A rating from all three of the main credit ratings agencies for a while now, and Spain has more recently been upgraded into Single A status by two out of the three; S&P Global and Fitch.

This represents an improvement from the days of the euro zone debt crisis of 2010-2012, when both countries needed euro zone bailouts and Spain teetered on the edge of a junk rating and Ireland dropped into the Triple B ratings bucket.

As a result, an inconclusive Spanish election earlier this month and questions over the Spanish deficit and the separatist issue in Catalonia hasn’t been a barrier to investor demand for Spanish government debt.

Catalonia’s former separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday urged Pedro Sanchez, the winner of Spain’s parliamentary election last month, to be open to dialogue with the independence movement but declined to say if his party would back him in parliament.

Political issues are also rumbling away in neighbouring Italy, where the leaders of the two parties in the coalition government, Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, have both raised the possibility of breaching EU rules on public spending.

Though Economy Minister Giovanni Tria ruled this out in a conversation with financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Italian bond markets have been jittery over the past two sessions.

Italian 10-year bond yields were up 4 bps in early trade at 2.64 percent, while the Italy/Germany bond yield spread was at 269 bps, having touched its widest level since Feb earlier this week.

In addition, U.S. private equity fund BlackRock has decided to pull out of a proposed rescue of struggling Italian bank Carige, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday. (Reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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