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Euro zone bond markets sell off on rising U.S. bond yields, oil surge

Mar 8, 2021

By Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON (Reuters) – Euro zone government bond yields rose on Monday in the face of rising U.S. Treasury yields and oil prices pushing past $70 for the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

A note of caution before Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting appeared to limit selling in euro zone bond markets, however, with focus turning to the ECB’s weekly bond-buying data due out later in the session.

That is being watched for any signs the central bank is stepping up the pace of bond purchases in its pandemic emergency bond-buying programme to contain rising bond yields.

In early Monday trade, most 10-year bond yields were up 2 basis points on the day, but holding below recent highs.

A sharp rise in U.S. Treasury yields, as a $1.9 fiscal stimulus boost helps lift growth and inflation expectations, has spilled over to other major bond markets.

Rising euro area yields create a headache for the ECB, since they can spill over into higher borrowing costs for corporations and households, hurting growth while the central bank is still trying to steer the economy through the coronavirus crisis.

Policymakers from ECB President Christine Lagarde to chief economist Philip Lane have expressed unease. Markets want to know the game plan.

“It is only fair to expect the (ECB’s) Executive Board to walk the talk by temporarily increasing the pace of PEPP purchases,” said Frederik Ducrozet, global macro strategist at Pictet. “We expect a pick-up in weekly net purchases to above 20 billion euros starting on Monday.”

(Graphic: The ECB’s pandemic stimulus programme: )

Germany’s benchmark Bund yield was last up 2 basis points at -0.28%=, holding below almost one-year highs hit around -0.20% in late February.

In contrast, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields were up almost 5 bps on the day at 1.60% — keeping the gap with Bund yields close to its widest levels in over a year near 190 bps.

Brent crude oil climbed above $70 a barrel for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, while U.S. crude touched its highest in more than two years, following reports of attacks on Saudi Arabian facilities.

Rising oil prices tend to move closely with inflation expectations in the euro area, pushing bond yields up and their prices down.

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe, editing by Larry King)