June 18, 2018 / 7:43 AM / a year ago

Euro zone bond markets turn focus to Sintra forum for more ECB rate clues

LONDON (Reuters) - Most government bond yields in the euro zone were steady to a touch lower on Monday, capped by the European Central Bank’s signaling last week that it will keep interest rates low well beyond the end of its stimulus scheme.

FILE PHOTO: Presentation of a new 2 Euro commemorative coin of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in Berlin, Germany, February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Mang

Fears that a trade spat between the world’s two largest economies could escalate also boosted sentiment toward the bloc’s safe-haven debt.

Still, trade was generally subdued with focus turning to a three-day ECB forum in Sintra, Portugal opening on Monday.

The conference gives ECB policymakers, as well as attending U.S. and Japanese central bankers, an opportunity to shape market expectations on the monetary policy outlook. ECB chief Mario Draghi speaks later in the day.

“In our view, bond bulls have gotten a bit carried away by the dovish twist to the ECB’s plan to phase out net quantitative easing,” said Martin van Vliet, senior rates strategist at ING.

“As such, we see a risk of this week’s ECB rhetoric being interpreted less dovishly and hence hold a bearish bias on euro zone rates, albeit a mild one given the renewed focus on trade tensions,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he was pushing ahead with hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, to which Beijing immediately said it would respond in kind.

Most high-grade 10-year bond yields were flat to a touch lower on Monday.

Southern European bond yields continued to fall, with two-year Italian bond yields down 11 basis points at 0.56 percent IT2YT=RR.

They are trading at levels from before a violent sell-off on May 29 sent them to five-year highs as fears of a snap election with the potential to become a de facto referendum on Italy’s euro membership gripped markets.

A new government has since been formed in Rome, with Economy Minister Giovanni Tria saying Italy had no intention of leaving the euro and planned to focus on cutting its debt levels.

More widely-quoted 10-year Italian, Spanish and Portuguese borrowing costs were down 4-6 bps. IT10YT=RR ES10YT=RR PT10YT=RR

The ECB said last week its unprecedented asset purchases would finish at the end of this year, although interest rates would remain low through the summer of 2019.

Mizuho’s head of rates strategy, Peter Chatwell, noted that Draghi, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda would speak in Sintra on Wednesday.

“There are decent risks there,” Chatwell said. “All the ECB has to do is talk about the trajectory of rates or how quickly rates will be hiked and the market won’t be comfortable with that.”

Germany’s benchmark Bund yield was unchanged at 0.40 percent DE10YT=RR with focus on domestic political developments.

Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) on Monday gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks to reach a European deal on migrants before they would demand immigration curbs that could fracture her governing coalition.

Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Editing by Toby Chopra and David Stamp

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