By Paul Dobson
June 29 (Bloomberg) — Euro-region central banks stepped up purchases of Greek, Portuguese and Irish government securities today, traders said, deepening efforts to support the region’s bond market in the wake of the sovereign-debt crisis.
The purchases focused on maturities of five years and below, with some buying interest also shown for longer-maturity Greek bonds, said the traders, who declined to be identified because the transactions are confidential. The extra yield, or spread, investors demand to hold the nations’ securities instead of benchmark German debt narrowed.
The European Central Bank took the unprecedented decision to start buying government bonds last month to help the European Union contain the Greek debt crisis. The ECB said yesterday it bought 4 billion euros ($5 billion) of bonds last week, taking the total purchases as of June 25 to 55 billion euros. Greek debt spreads had been widening, approaching their levels before the EU rescue was announced in early May, amid speculation funds that track bond indexes were selling the debt.
Central banks “are more active than they have been of late,” said Huw Worthington, a fixed-income strategist at Barclays Capital in London. “There has been a lot of volatility in a lot of the spreads, and some concerns of selling ahead of the month end.”
Greek two-year notes rose, sending the yield down 41 basis points to 10.19 percent as of 3:43 p.m. in London. The yield spread with German two-year notes fell 39 basis points to 1001 basis points. The yield on 10-year Greek bonds fell 41 basis points to 10.57 percent.
Greek securities will leave indexes managed by Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and the Markit iBoxx index at the end of this month after they were downgraded to junk by Moody’s Investors Service, potentially triggering sales by managers in so-called passive funds.
The Irish two-year bond yield fell 11 basis points to 2.88 percent and equivalent-maturity Portuguese yields dropped nine basis points to 3.61 percent.