Amid Budget Uncertainty, Italian Debt Holders Quietly Head for the Exits

EUItalyflag, cc Flickr Ewan Topping, modified,

New numbers from the European Central Bank (ECB) reveal the extent to which foreign investors have been liquidating their holdings of Italian debt. According to the ECB, Italian debt holdings declined by 38 billion euros in June, following a similar 34 billion euro drop in May. Both figures broke net debt sales records for their respective months.

So far, the sell-off hasn’t been reflected in Italian bond yields. The 10-year yield continues to fluctuate within the 2.5-3.5% band where it settled in the wake of general elections earlier this year. The lack of real movement in bond yields despite the sell-off is due to Italian banks stepping in to soak up excess supply. According to the Financial Times, Italian banks have increased their net holdings of government debt by more than 40 billion euros over the second quarter of 2018. Yields could be seeing further upward pressure later in the year as the ECB winds down its QE program, ushering in interest rate normalization after years of easy liquidity.

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