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UPDATE 2-Dovish ECB keeps Italian bond yields near multi-week lows

·2 min read

* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields http://tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr (Adds details, updates prices)

By Dhara Ranasinghe and Danilo Masoni

LONDON, June 14 (Reuters) - Italy's 10-year sovereign borrowing costs edged up but stayed near multi-week lows on Monday as comments from the ECB chief supported the view that there is no hurry to taper aggressive emergency stimulus.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told Politico that while the euro zone economy is at a turning point, its recovery must be firm and sustainable before the central bank can debate clawing back emergency support.

The ECB agreed last week to maintain an elevated pace of bond purchases to keep borrowing costs ultra-low, and policymakers did not entertain questions about tapering support, even as the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 shock.

This backdrop has supported euro zone bond markets in recent days, allowing yields to fall further.

Italy, one of the biggest beneficiaries of ECB bond-buying, has led the way. Its 10-year bond yield touched 0.74% on Monday , its lowest level in almost eight weeks, before recovering some ground. By 1507 GMT it was at 0.771%, up 2.3 basis points (bps) on the day after falling 13 bps last week.

"Lagarde's comments (this and last week) support stability in rates," said ING senior rates strategist Antoine Bouvet.

"This should in theory attract more demand into carry trades (in particular high-yielding bonds) but I think this is largely priced in," he said, adding that bond markets could become more vulnerable to a pullback around bond issuance.

Most 10-year bond yields in the euro area edged up just slightly with Tuesday's two-day meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve providing another reason for subdued trading across markets.

Germany's benchmark 10-year bond yield was up 1.4 bps on the day at -0.254%. It hit -0.287% on Friday - its lowest since April. Greece's 5-year bond yield fell below zero to -0.012% at one point - its lowest since Nov. 13.

Market focus meanwhile turned to the European Union, which began selling the first bond backing its 800 billion euro recovery fund that would make it one of the biggest debt issuers in the world.

This first sale should be completed on Tuesday and raise 10 billion euros. "The key point is that new EU bonds will provide investors with a liquid alternative," said Lidia Treiber, director, research at WisdomTree Asset Management. "This moment sets a precedent as an additional tool that the EU and the ECB has." ($1 = 0.8261 euros)

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe and Danilo Masoni; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise/Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)