ECB back in the market for Italy’s sovereign debt

THE EUROPEAN Central Bank (ECB) was suspected of once again ramping up its bond-purchasing programme yesterday after yields fell at an auction of Italian debt.

The Bank had scaled down its intervention in recent weeks, which was interpreted by markets as an attempt to put pressure on Rome to speed up the implementation of its austerity measures.

But Italy successfully offloaded €7bn of 12-month bonds yesterday at an average yield of 3.57 per cent versus 4.15 per cent a month ago, suggesting the Bank came back to Rome’s rescue. Yesterday’s yield is still considered too high for comfort, however.

Meanwhile, Greece saw yields rise slightly at a sale of short-term debt. Athens does not hold normal sales because it is shut out of markets but small monthly refinancing auctions.