ECONOMY

T-bills draw strong investor interest

A 1.4-billion-euro Treasury bill auction by the Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) yesterday met with strong interest from investors, with bids reaching more than four times the offer’s value, despite yields falling to historic lows. Following yesterday’s auction, PDMA has borrowed about 37.7 billion euros so far this year along with private placements – about 86 percent of its 43.7-billion total borrowing target for 2009. The auction produced a uniform yield of 1.78 percent for the 52-week T-bill, down from 2.67 percent in a previous January 13 auction. The cover ratio for the 52-week T-bill portion of the auction was 4.31 versus 6.47 in the previous January auction. The yield for the 26-week paper came to 1.48 percent, as opposed to 2.46 percent previously. The auction results came as a relief for the country, which suffered a rating downgrade to A- by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services in January due to worsening public finances. «The largest portion of this year’s borrowing has been covered,» the head of PDMA, Spyros Papanikolaou, told Reuters in an interview. «We have run faster than in any other year, as almost all of the bonds expiring this year mature in the first half,» he said. Greece’s 260-billion-euro economy is all but grinding to a halt this year after years of 4 percent growth, with the central bank now projecting a sharp slowdown. With weak economic activity taking a toll on revenues, the government’s target of growth of 15 percent in tax revenues could be missed, necessitating more sorties to raise money from capital markets. «We’ll have to wait at least for the first-half year data to determine whether there will be a need for additional borrowing this year,» Papanikolaou added. With economic activity decelerating, Greece’s fiscal strains have raised concerns, driving the yield spread of 10-year government paper over Bunds sharply higher earlier this year. The spread had shrunk to 240 basis points yesterday.