ECONOMY

Investors snap up Greek debt

Greece raised 390 million euros via a three-month debt issue at a rate of 3.975 percent yesterday, with demand six times greater than the amount on offer, the Greek debt office said. The office had intended to raise 300 million euros but said after an initial statement that bids totaled 1.874 billion euros and that it had increased the amount raised to 390 million euros. Analysts had previously said that it would be an important achievement for Greece to successfully place a three-month issue at a yield or interest rate of less than 4.0 percent. The last issue of three-month bonds on July 20, which raised 1.5 billion euros, was made at 4.04 percent. Greece was frozen out of the sovereign debt market four months ago, when a debt crisis brought it close to default, but it was then rescued with substantial loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Since then, Greece has been dipping its toe back into the water and is now stepping up the rate of issuance. Foreign investors snapped up nearly three-quarters of the 390 million euros’ worth of paper that was sold by Greece, which is barely holding on to its investment grade rating from Fitch as it battles to cut a big deficit and emerge from recession. «The yield has fallen below the psychological threshold of 4.0 percent and the cover is quite good. But the amount is small and we can’t draw [clear] conclusions,» said Stelios Vizantinopoulos, senior fixed income trader at Marfin Bank, told Reuters. The latest Greek issue was being watched closely as it coincided with sales by Ireland and Spain. Ireland in particular is under great pressure from the cost of a banking crisis and there were concerns that if its issue went badly, another round of great tension on eurozone bond markets could arise. But the sales in Ireland and Spain also went well, helping send European stocks and the euro higher. Investors were relieved that Ireland managed to tap the market for 1.5 billion euros by selling four- and eight-year government bonds, indicating that demand remained firm despite recent concerns that the Irish economy was falling off a cliff as it grapples with sky-high debt levels and a bailed-out banking system. Spain also garnered 7 billion euros – at the top end of expectations – via the issue of 12- and 18-month bills but had to pay a moderately higher interest rate to get investors to buy. It has been a while since European bond auctions have attracted so much interest in the markets.