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Markets

Powell, oil put euro zone bonds on defensive, inflation expectations rise

  • Rising oil prices also put some upward pressure on borrowing costs, helping push a key gauge of the market's long-term euro zone inflation expectations to the highest levels since 2019.
  • The headwinds from US Treasuries remain strong but euro bond bears seem to be getting less aggressive as the ECB meeting draws closer.
Published March 5, 2021

LONDON: Euro zone bond yields edged up on Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated interest rates would stay low for a long time and that he didn't view a recent rise in US borrowing costs as "disorderly".

However, caution ahead of an European Central Bank meeting next week kept moves in check.

Rising oil prices also put some upward pressure on borrowing costs, helping push a key gauge of the market's long-term euro zone inflation expectations to the highest levels since 2019.

Yet the overall move in bond markets was modest - both in comparison to the sharp sell-off seen last week and the overnight jump in US Treasury yields.

"The headwinds from US Treasuries remain strong but euro bond bears seem to be getting less aggressive as the ECB meeting draws closer," said Michael Leister, head of interest rates strategy at Commerzbank.

Euro area yields rose only modestly, with bond prices outperforming US Treasuries, holding below almost one-year highs hit last week when world bond markets came under intense selling pressure.

Germany's benchmark 10-year bond yield was up 1 basis point (bps) in late trade to -0.30% at 1523 GMT after a bigger rise earlier in the session.

US February employment data came in more than twice as strong as expected, sending the German 10-year yield briefly up over 3 bps on the day to -0.273% as it tracked a bigger rise in US Treasury yields.

The euro zone five-year, five-year breakeven inflation forward, a gauge of market inflation expectations, rose to its highest since early 2019 at nearly 1.44%.

That coincided with a more than 2% jump in oil prices to their highest levels in nearly 14 months after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies agreed not to increase supply in April.

Still, euro zone bond yields looked set to end the week down, gaining a respite from the recent selling.

German Bund yields were poised to end the week down around 4 bps - the biggest weekly drop since December and breaking four straight weeks of increases. When bond yields fall, the price rises.

French and Dutch 10-year bond yields also looked set to break with four-straight weeks of rises.

A slew of comments from ECB officials expressing concern about the pace of rising bond yields has helped bring some calm to debt markets.

Investors are now looking to the ECB to back up its concern with action - notably a pick up in the pace of asset purchases within the ECB's emergency bond buying scheme to keep a rise in borrowing costs in check.

Elsewhere, Moody's is due to review Spain's credit rating later on Friday.

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