(Adds comment from BoI)
ROME Feb 22 Foreign investors sold a net
23.5 billion euros of Italian debt in December after an even
steeper selloff the previous month amid tensions over the
sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone, Bank of Italy data
showed on Wednesday.
The data comes from a month in which Italian 10-year bond
yields were still at potentially crippling levels
of around 7 percent during a critical phase of the crisis.
The December data "mirror the crisis' most acute phase," the
Bank of Italy said in a separate comment. They "confirm what was
evident in market prices for Italian government bonds and
something which had already taken place in November."
Market concerns about the sustainability of Italy's 1.9
trillion euro debt pile peaked in November, precipitating a
change of government as the country's debt costs spiralled to 8
percent also on short maturities. Over that month, foreigners
sold a net 27.1 billion euros of Italian debt.
Ten-year yields have since come down to around 5.5 percent,
helped by a ready supply of cheap longer-term funding provided
by the European Central Bank and by growing market confidence in
the government of technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti, who was
sworn in on Nov. 16.
Sales of government bonds by foreign investors had been
partly compensated by purchases from locals, the Bank of Italy
said without providing a figure.
Italians sold a net 10.5 billion euros in foreign securities
in December, the data showed.
The central bank also pointed to a slight improvement in the
current account balance as weak internal demand curbed imports
while exports performed decently.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie and Valentina Za; Editing by John