October 16, 2014 / 4:50 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Venezuela benchmark bond yield highest since financial crisis

(Adds comments by Maduro, updates oil prices)

By Corina Pons and Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The yield on Venezuela’s benchmark global bond hit its highest level since the global financial crisis on Thursday, driven by a continuing slide in oil prices and concerns about the nation’s ability to pay.

The Global 27 bond was yielding 18.45 percent, just shy of the 19.43 percent yield in February 2009 when credit markets were still reeling following the collapse of U.S. investment banks.

Yields on other Venezuelan bonds also rose, with the Global 2022 bond hitting a record-high yield of 22.76 percent.

Crude oil, the country’s principal export that provides nearly all of its hard currency, has suffered a four-month rout driven by concerns about the global economy. Crude prices on Thursday spiked on a combination of technical buying and options expiry for U.S. crude.

Despite the market anxiety, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said the OPEC member had enough resources for debt payments including state oil company PDVSA’s $3 billion bond due at the end of the month.

“We are going to continue meeting our commitments,” Maduro said during a televised broadcast. “We’ve got some payments at the end of October. We’re ready to pay.”

Investors expect that PDVSA will make that payment in full but have concerns about Venezuela’s capacity in the medium-term, said Francisco Ghersi, managing director at Knossos Asset Management, which only invests in Venezuelan bonds.

“What worries the market is whether Venezuela has the capacity to pay going forward,” he said.

Venezuelan bonds now pay on average more than 18 percentage points more than comparable U.S. Treasury bills, according to JPMorgan’s Emerging Market Bond Index.

That is higher than any other emerging market, including Ukraine which is wrestling with an insurrection and Argentina, which is currently in default.

Venezuela’s high-yielding bonds, combined with its huge oil reserves and significant offshore assets, make them attractive to emerging market bond funds that want to boost returns for investors.

But institutional investors say the bonds’ volatility make them difficult to sell because few brokers want to have large amounts of them in their portfolio. As a result, the sale of any significant quantity of Venezuelan debt can cause big price swings. (Additional reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrew Hay)

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