November 24, 2017 / 8:55 AM / 23 days ago

ECB bond purchase debate pulls euro zone yields off lows

* Yields rise as ratesetters debate bond purchase end date

* South Europe debt lags, Italy-Germany spread widens

* Irish bonds underperform as government on verge of collapse

* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr

By Abhinav Ramnarayan

LONDON, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Euro zone government bond yields rose further off recent lows on Friday after a detailed account of the European Central Bank’s October meeting showed that ratesetters were divided on when exactly the bank should end bond purchases.

Most euro zone government bonds - especially the lower-rated ones - have rallied strongly over the past month after the ECB in late October extended asset purchases until September 2018 and left it open-ended beyond that.

But minutes of the meeting released on Thursday showed that while ratesetters broadly agreed on extending the scheme, many wanted a clean end to it next year.

Some policymakers believe the ECB should stop linking extraordinary stimulus to inflation; a move that would allow the central bank to end purchases even if consumer prices continue to lag economic growth.

“For the central bank, this could be one point for an exit, if they link just the traditional toolkit to inflation dynamics, they could exit quantitative easing sooner rather than later,” said DZ Bank analyst Sebastian Fellechner.

The yield on Germany’s 10-year government bond , the benchmark for the region, is 2 basis points higher than the week’s low at 0.36 percent.

Lower-rated Southern European countries, seen as the biggest beneficiaries of ECB largesse, have seen some of the outperformance of recent times lose steam.

The gap between Italian and German 10-year borrowing costs, for example, is at 144 bps, 4 bps wider than the same time on Thursday and 8 bps off the tightest levels this month.

Also in Germany, the leader of the country’s Social Democrats came under growing pressure to drop his opposition to a new “grand coalition” with Angela Merkel’s conservatives, adding to upward pressure on high-grade yields.

The possibility of fresh elections in the euro zone’s largest economy had added some uncertainty in the market, so any possibility of avoiding that reduces the “safe haven” bid for the better-rated euro zone government bonds.

In addition, a survey of German business confidence from the Ifo economic institute due out at 0900 GMT could provide further good news for the country.

However, as the possibility of one election fades, the likelihood of another has increased sharply: the Irish government was on the verge of collapse on Thursday after the deputy prime minister’s position was called into question.

Irish government bonds were among the worst performers on Friday, with 10-year yields rising 3 bps to 0.61 percent.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets

Reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan; Editing by Peter Graff

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