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By Daniel Bases
NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The cost for insuring Venezuelan sovereign debt against default or restructuring surged on Wednesday as global oil prices swooned to a 27-month low before rebounding, illustrating rising investor concerns over the OPEC member nation’s ability to service its debt.
An investor wanting to insure a $10 million trade for five years would need to spend $4.175 million as an up-front cost. In addition they would have to pay $500,000 annually, for the duration of the credit default swap contract, according to data provider Markit. On Tuesday the up-front cost was $3.868 million.
The cost to insure a portfolio of Venezuelan sovereign debt for five years has nearly tripled in the last four months. The up-front cost was just below $1.5 million in late June.
“There’s panic over whether they are going to be able to pay. That great concern is reflected in the market with yields touching 30 percent,” Russ Dallen, head of Caracas Capital Markets in Miami, said in reference to yields on debt issued by state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
“Oil prices are being pushed to levels where we will find out how low they can go for Venezuela to be able to still carry on,” said Dallen.
PDVSA debt maturing in April 2017 currently trades with a yield of 28.68 percent. The bond is down 5.75 points in price with a bid at 60.25, according to Thomson Reuters data . When the debt was issued in 2007, it sold at a premium and a coupon of 5.25 percent.
In the last 2-1/2 months, the bid price on Venezuela’s benchmark sovereign bond due 2027 has fallen 32.5 percent to 59.99 cents on the dollar. The yield has popped up to nearly 17 percent.
Looking across the Venezuelan sovereign curve, the yield spread over benchmark U.S. Treasuries has widened to 1,693 basis points. On Wednesday the spread increased by 1.37 percent and total returns fell 6.38 percent, as measured by the JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Index Plus.
The weakness in Venezuela has not occurred in a vacuum with many markets under selling pressure, including global stocks, peripheral European sovereign bonds and the U.S. dollar.
Increased worries over slowing global economic growth and a glut of oil is exacerbated by rising incidences of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus beyond its origins in West Africa.
“Bonds have been falling in recent days because of oil prices and today especially out of fear that we’re at the start of a risk-aversion period,” said Jorge Piedrahita, analyst at Torino Capital in New York, citing worries about Ebola and the European economy.
“In this context there are many rumors going around ... I don’t think it will be a period of major risk-aversion. I think it’s a spectacular opportunity to buy Venezuelan bonds.” (Additional reporting by Corina Pons in Caracas; Editing by Diane Craft and James Dalgleish)