* Luxembourg to probe Espirito Santo holding firms
* Portuguese bonds underperform euro zone peers
* Euro zone inflation steady at 0.5 pct in June
(Recasts with moves in Portuguese bonds)
By Marius Zaharia
LONDON, June 30 Portuguese government bond
yields rose on Monday because of uncertainty about the country's
largest bank, whose shares plunged as Luxembourg justice
authorities launched a probe into three of its holding
Finance Minister Maria Luis Albuquerque said Banco Espirito
Santo was well-capitalised and the government saw no threat to
financial stability and public accounts.
Nevertheless, bond traders said the sell-off in the bank's
shares led some cautious investors to take profits on the recent
rally in Portuguese government bonds.
Selling pressure in the bonds also came from investors who
did not want to dump the bank's shares or bonds into a nervous
market and prefered to hedge their losses by betting on a rise
in government bond yields, traders said.
Ten-year Portuguese bond yields rose 10 basis
points to 3.69 percent, having hit their lowest since late 2005
around 2.25 percent earlier this month. Portuguese bonds
underperformed their euro zone peers.
"We've seen some negative headlines around Espirito Santo,"
said Alessandro Giansanti, senior rate strategist at ING.
The bank's shares were last 7.21 percent lower,
having traded more than 10 percent down earlier.
Junk-rated Portugal successfully completed its bailout deal
in May and has returned to the bond market this year with
regular debt auctions which have been well bid. The rejection of
some budget cuts by the constitutional court earlier this month
has caused only brief selling pressure in the market.
Some traders expected the market to continue to weather
negative news. They said that the large moves in Portuguese
yields did not necessarily reflect a panicky market and a higher
risk premium would eventually attract new buyers.
"Because of the ratings most of the Portuguese bonds are
held by hedge funds, which are not natural holders," one trader
said. "So when the market turns, it turns quickly because it is
also less liquid than other markets."
Elsewhere, German yields fell after data showed euro zone
inflation at 0.5 percent in June. Some investors expected a
higher number after above-forecast German price growth data on
Inflation is runnning well below the European Central Bank's
target of just under 2 percent and any lower-than-expected
reading sparks speculation that the central bank may be forced
to ease monetary policy further.
The central bank cut its interest rates earlier in June and
promised more liquidity to banks via long-term conditional loans
called TLTROs. In an interview broadcast on Sunday, Executive
Board Member Yves Mersch said the ECB saw no acute risk of
deflation, but it did see a long period of low price growth
Ten-year Bund yields were last 1.4 bps lower
at 1.245 percent.
"After last week's higher-than-expected numbers from
Germany, there might have been some expectations of a higher
number in the markets," said Suvi Kosonen, an analyst at Nordea.
"(But) After the significant easing package from early June, the
ECB is unlikely to react."
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)