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UPDATE 3-EU looks to wrap up Q1 funding with 13 bln euro SURE bond sale

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Yoruk Bahceli
·3 min read
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* EU to raise 13 billion euros from SURE issuance

* Demand exceeds 96.5 billion euros

* Euro area bonds supported by coronavirus uncertainty, U.S. Treasury calm (Adds demand for EU deal)

By Yoruk Bahceli

AMSTERDAM, March 23 (Reuters) - Euro zone bond yields fell and the European Union drummed up high demand for its latest bond sale on Tuesday as an uncertain coronavirus outlook supported demand for the bloc's safe-haven assets.

The EU will raise 13 billion euros ($15.43 billion) from the sale of five- and 25-year social bonds to fund its SURE unemployment scheme via a syndicate of banks later on Tuesday, with final investor demand of over 96.5 billion euros, according to a lead manager memo seen by Reuters.

The five-year bond will raise 8 billion euros and the 25-year bond will raise 5 billion, according to the lead manager.

The deal should round up the EU's funding for the first quarter, as it recently told investors in a presentation that 13 billion euros was the maximum amount it had left to raise in the quarter.

The EU is expected to raise another 13 billion to 14 billion euros in the second quarter before wrapping up funding for SURE, the investor presentation said. Then it will move on to fund its much larger 750 billion-euro recovery fund.

The backdrop for safe-haven euro area government bonds remained supportive. Treasury yields dipped ahead of a $60 billion auction of two-year bonds and tightened coronavirus measures in Europe underscored the bloc's slower recovery from the virus. Bond yields fall as prices rise.

Germany's 10-year yield, the benchmark for the bloc, was down nearly 3 basis points to -0.34% at 1509 GMT, after touching its lowest in a week at -0.357% in earlier trade.

Italy's 10-year yield was down 4 basis points to 0.61%, bringing the risk premium it pays over German debt to 95 basis points.

"With Treasuries taking a breather, however, especially EUR rates have more room to focus on other risk themes like the EU's vaccines spat with the UK and the still increasing infection numbers," ING analysts told clients.

Elsewhere, data from the European Central Bank showed it increased its gross bond purchases last week by 21.9 billion euros, little different from the net purchases figure released on Monday, given small redemptions of just 900 million euros.

Data on Monday had shown the ECB increased its net bond buying by half, after it announced at its policy meeting on March 11 that it would step up buying under its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme over the coming quarter to help combat a rise in bond yields.

On Tuesday, ECB Chief Economist Philip Lane said Europe was facing a difficult second quarter given rising infections and re-imposed lockdown measures.

He played down last week's surge in ECB bond buying because weekly data could be choppy, but pledged that there would be a "substantial increase in a consistent way" over a longer period.

That came after Dutch central bank Governor Klaas Knot, considered a hawk, emphasized the temporary nature of the stepped-up purchases on Monday. ($1 = 0.8423 euros) (Reporting by Yoruk Bahceli, editing by Larry King and Susan Fenton)