* Italy sells 6.5 bln euro of five- and 10-year bonds
* Court to rule on former PM Berlusconi's tax fraud case
* Ruling may have impact on government stability
By Marius Zaharia
LONDON, July 30 Italian government bonds firmed
on Tuesday after a smooth debt auction that defied political
uncertainty as a court met to rule on whether former premier
Silvio Berlusconi should be jailed.
Italy's supreme court began considering Berlusconi's final
appeal against a jail sentence and ban from public office for
tax fraud - a verdict that could endanger the shaky coalition
However, a sale of 6.75 billion euros ($9 billion) of bonds
met comfortable demand. Ten-year borrowing costs hit their
lowest since May. Analysts largely attributed the auction's
success to big peripheral debt repayments.
In secondary markets, 10-year Italian yields
dropped 6 basis points on the day to 4.40 percent, compared with
4.42 percent before the auction.
"Italy is doing fairly well given the political turmoil," DZ
Bank strategist Christian Lenk said. "The market is still
ignoring the issue in a way because it's (in its) early stages."
Some 10 billion euros of Italian bills are due to be repaid
on Wednesday, while 25 billion euros of bonds mature on
Thursday. Italy and Spain pay a combined 16.6 billion euros in
coupons this week, according to Reuters data.
With Tuesday's auction, Italy has completed around 80
percent of its 2013 funding target, Reuters calculations show.
As some two thirds of its debt is owned by domestic investors,
who tend to hold the bonds for longer, Italy is in a good
position to weather any future political crises.
Ten-year Italian yields sit within this year's 3.7-5.1
percent range. Its upper bound was first tested when February's
inconclusive elections left Italy without a government for two
months before Prime Minister Enrico Letta's centre-left PD Party
and Berlusconi's centre-right PDL agreed to share power.
Back then, Italy was riding a wave of global risk appetite,
with central banks gushing liquidity. But sentiment could shift
against high-yielding assets later this year if the Federal
Reserve starts reducing monetary stimulus as planned.
"You could say that when Italy didn't have a government
earlier this year there was little or no market impact so why
should it be different now?" said Rabobank rate strategist Lyn
"It is different because (Fed) tapering is just around the
corner ... so people will care more this time around. It could
have a bigger impact in terms of an increase in Italian yields."
The Fed, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England
hold policy meetings this week. Graham-Taylor said investors
would particularly look for clues to when the Fed would begin to
reduce bond purchases.
Traders said euro zone government bonds, and especially
benchmark German Bunds, were unlikely to move much before the
meetings. Bund futures were 17 ticks lower at 142.29.