November 29, 2019 / 11:56 AM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 2-Euro zone bond yields off 1-month lows as inflation picks up

* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr (Updates prices, adds ECB news)

By Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Borrowing costs in Germany, France and the Netherlands rose above one-month lows on Friday, as euro zone inflation accelerating faster than expected in November was seen bringing some relief to the European Central Bank’s new chief.

Even after massive monetary stimulus, the ECB has struggled for years to boost inflation, which has undershot its near 2% target for years.

Latest “flash” data showed annual inflation jumped to 1% this month from 0.7% in October, outpacing expectations for 0.9%, as volatile food prices rose more than predicted.

Underlying inflation also rose faster than predicted as services inflation continued to accelerate in a comforting sign for the central bank.

“Core inflation is unlikely to rise well above 1.5% for now, which arguably would be a condition for the ECB to seriously consider adjusting its monetary stance,” said Frederik Ducrozet, a strategist at Pictet Wealth Management.

“However, today’s data should help buy Christine Lagarde more time to focus on long term issues, including the ECB’s strategy review.”

The ECB is expected to conduct a strategic review of its policies under Lagarde, who has just taken over the helm from Mario Draghi. A symmetrical and more precise definition of the inflation target is likely to be part of the policy review.

Meanwhile, the German and Italian appointees to the European Central Bank’s board are vying for control of the ECB’s market operations, a position that involves running its vast money-printing programme with a big say on questions such as which bonds the bank can buy and for how long.

Germany’s benchmark 10-year Bund yield was up around a basis point on the day in late trade at -0.35%, after hitting one-month lows on Thursday as investors fretted about U.S.-China trade talks.

That broader concern about global trade tensions meant the bloc’s top-rated bond markets were on course to end the week with a third week of yield falls, albeit small ones.

Southern European bond markets, however, looked set to end the week and month on a weaker footing.

Italian, Spanish and Portuguese debt markets have sold off heavily this month on renewed political uncertainty in Spain and Italy and as investors booked profit on the hefty price gains made this year in peripheral debt markets.

Italy’s 10-year bond yield, at 1.34%, was poised to end November 31 bps higher, its biggest monthly jump since August 2018.

Spanish and Portuguese yields are up 17 and 24 bps respectively, set for their largest monthly rises since May 2018 .

“Basically our view on the periphery, especially Italy, depends substantially on political developments,” said Sergio Capaldi, fixed income strategist at Intesa SanPaolo.

In recent weeks, a plan to reform the euro zone bailout funds, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), has proved highly contentious in Italy, with the hard-right League party challenging the government not to agree to it.

“Uncertainties are the main driver at the moment and we think will remain the case for the next 3-6 months,” said Capaldi.

Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Additional reporting by Yoruk Bahceli; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Andrew Cawthorne

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