Italy’s Supercharged Bond Market Is All About Faith in The ECB

One of Europe’s riskiest bond bets is a sign of how much investors are confident in the central bank’s ability to recover from the pandemic smoothly.

Italian benchmark yields are near a six-month low and the government is so short of liquidity that it canceled last week’s loan auction. With the number of outstanding positions in bond futures since March, the market is beginning to look like a crowded trade.

This is the latest evidence of the bullish momentum that is prevailing across European markets. Italy is one of the region’s most indebted nations, yet has seen unprecedented stimulus from the European Central Bank to dent lending costs that are reducing volatility and driving investors into the highest-yielding corners of the market. .

“The PEPP expansion could be important in that regard,” said Christoph Rieger, head of fixed-rate strategy at Commerzbank AG, referring to the ECB’s pandemic bond-buying program, which is due to end in March, but which many investors Now the bet will go on for a long time.

Against this background, Rieger expects Italy’s 10-year yield premium to fall to 75 basis points from its German counterpart – the security sector paradigm – currently around 100 basis points.

Meanwhile, Italian stocks are on a tear after a blockbuster earnings season in Europe, and the ECB recently changed its forward guidance to signal a longer period of ultra-lax policy, adding fuel to the rally.

Last week, the number of outstanding Italian 10-year bond futures contracts rose nearly 60,000 to more than 360,000. The increase as the underlying securities increased, indicating that investors are adding rather than consolidating their positions.

Giles Gail, still head of European rates strategy at NatWest Markets Plc, is starting to consider what might happen if everyone rushes to exit at the same time.

“It will be perverse, but possible in this market,” he said. For now, he also expects the Italian-German bond to expand by 75 basis points in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Rohan Khanna, a strategist at UBS AG, points to the risk of Snap elections, which he says are “highly likely” in the first quarter of 2022, if Mario Draghi decides to run for president, Although the probability of that is low. But for now, it all seems like a distant possibility.

On Wednesday, Italy paid less than the ECB’s own deposit rate to borrow for the first time in 12 months. This is an anomaly that highlights the scale of distortion in the region’s currency markets as well as the bullish trend of traders.

“An ECB that is in volume-control mode, prolonging its QE program with a clear commitment to financial stability, is clearly supportive of sovereign spreads,” Gayle said.

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