ECONOMY

Bond spreads frustrating officials

With Greece ready to take its borrowing program on the road, the country’s stubbornly high funding costs are frustrating government officials. Greece is preparing a roadshow ahead of plans to issue a global US dollar-denominated bond in late April or early May, according to the head of the Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA), Petros Christodoulou. He stopped short of saying how much Greece is aiming to borrow in that period. Greece, with total borrowing needs of 53.2 billion euros this year, faces a refunding hump in April and May as it rolls over maturing bonds, T-bills and pay coupons that are to come due. So far this year, Greece has raised about 23 billion euros via T-bills, a private placement and syndicated bond issues. Confidence in Greece as a borrower, however, has been shaken by the impact of the global crisis on growth and the country’s budget, with the premium investors demand to hold Greek government paper instead of German benchmark Bunds rising to 350 basis points yesterday. Faced with high borrowing costs, the government has said it will seek to broaden the investor base for its bonds and tap global markets. News of a global bond comes as Greek officials are registering frustration that the country’s debt costs remain dangerously high despite budget cuts and the EU’s promise of support in case of a threatened insolvency. At over 6 percent, the yields on 10-year Greek bonds remain at more than double what the German government pays on its own debt. «There is some frustration that spreads on Greek bonds remain stubbornly high,» a senior government official was cited as saying by Dow Jones Newswires. The official explained that markets apparently are waiting for the government to come through with fiscal austerity plans. These comments underscore government concerns that the high premiums investors continue to demand could swell debt-servicing costs and thwart other efforts to rein in fiscal deficits. «We are doing everything we can from our end to calm the markets down,» Christodoulou told Bloom-berg Television in an interview. «We are doing the best we can to fund early, to reduce the uncertainty surrounding our market.» Christodoulou said he wants the nation’s 10-year bonds to yield about 250 basis points over Germany by the end of European summer and a «low 200» basis-point spread to Bunds by the fourth quarter. ECB: Fiscal tightening will be recognized The European Commission and European Central Bank reiterated their support for Greece after recent austerity measures, saying they expect funding costs to drop. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said in Stockholm yesterday he expected markets to reward Greece for its fiscal consolidation measures. «I expect… that the credibility of these measures will be progressively recognized by all market participants and observers,» he said, referring to Greek deficit-cutting plans. He called the Greek government measures courageous. Meanwhile, the European Commission said in its quarterly report released yesterday that Greek measures and the expressions of support which followed from European Union leaders «should pave the way for lower tensions in the financial markets.» Greece is struggling to handle a 300-billion-euro debt pile and has agreed on austerity measures to reduce its deficit to 8.7 percent of gross domestic product this year from 12.7 percent in 2009.