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EURO GOVT-Bunds flat, U.S. polls uncertainty offsets better data

Marius Zaharia and Kirsten Donovan
Thursday, 1 Nov 2012 | 4:53 PM ET

* Bunds broadly steady as focus shifts to U.S.

* Markets attach higher probability to Obama win

* Greek yields rise as bailout talks go on

(Adds fresh comment, updates prices)

LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - German government bonds were steady on Thursday, as uncertainty over the outcome of the presidential election in the United States limited the impact of better-than-expected economic data.

In Europe, worries over Greece's efforts to seal a deal to draw more money from its bailout were keeping safe haven assets such as Bunds in demand. The International Monetary Fund said financing issues remained the main obstacle for Athens to receive more aid money from its lenders.

In the United States, the ISM manufacturing index read 51.7 in October, exceeding a 51.2 forecast. Consumer confidence rose to its highest level in more than four years and data from payrolls processor ADP showed U.S. companies added 158,000 jobs last month, more than expected.

Investors were wary of selling Bunds on the back of the improved data, however, as whether Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney wins the U.S. Presidency on Tuesday could have a much larger impact on prices, at least near-term.

Traders and strategists said bond market pricing was attaching a higher probability to an Obama win, although polls showed the contenders were effectively tied.

``It's all about Tuesday. The base case is an Obama win, so that would have a much smaller impact on markets than a Romney win,'' Commerzbank rate strategist Rainer Guntermann said.

``In an Obama win we could expect the (Federal Reserve) to continue keeping a loose monetary policy. If anything happens - whether that's (Friday's non-farm payrolls) data or something else - that makes a Romney victory more likely, yields would rise a bit.''

Romney has opposed the Fed's bond-buying programme and is also expected to make the more aggressive cuts in Federal spending, something Barclays' analysts said could drive a Treasury sell-off.

Any initial reaction of U.S. government bonds to the results is likely to have a knock-on effect to euro zone bond markets, dictating short-term direction for German Bunds, but analysts say the effect may not last long.

``The dominant factor in Europe is still going to be the ECB's potential action in Spain and the situation in Greece,'' said Nick Stamenkovic, rate strategist at RIA Capital Markets. Bund futures were 6 ticks higher at 141.74. Ten-year cash yields were 0.5 basis points lower at 1.462 percent.

STASIS

The euro crisis is largely on hold while Greece seeks a deal to secure more bailout money later this month in order to avoid bankruptcy, while there is no sign Spain is likely to ask for aid soon.

Greek bond yields spiked higher, up around 55 basis points at the 10-year maturity to 18.23 percent, after the country said on Wednesday that it would overshoot its deficit and debt targets again next year.

``You know the downside is huge if Greece exits the euro, so if you see a bit of bad news you're tempted to sell and book profits,'' said Gabriel Sterne, an economist at Exotix, a brokerage house that deals in Greek debt.

``That makes the market very sensitive to bad news such as yesterday's budget announcement.''

In another setback, a Greek Court said on Thursday the pension reform demanded by international lenders may be unconstitutional.

Spanish and Italian bond yields were broadly steady with 10-year paper yielding 5.60 percent and 4.93 percent respectively , 3-4 bps lower on the day.

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)