• German, French bond auctions to show extent of haven demand
  • Slide in Portuguese bonds exposes schism in region's market

Investors will look next week for a whiff of confirmation from Mario Draghi that they weren’t wrong to push bond yields to record lows in anticipation of fresh stimulus from the European Central Bank.

The ECB president’s speech to European lawmakers in Brussels on Monday will come after a turbulent five days in which global markets exposed a schism in the euro region’s debt markets. German 10-year bund yields approached their record low from April while Portugal’s jumped by the most since May 2012, before Draghi made his famous “whatever it takes” speech in July that year.

Investor demand for havens at these lower yields faces a challenge on Feb. 17 when Germany auctions 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) of 10-year bonds. That’s followed the next day by France selling up to 8.5 billion euros of conventional and inflation-linked bonds. The offerings come while the prospects of slowing growth and depressed inflation are prompting investors to pile into the region’s safer fixed-income assets, driving yields down toward levels that triggered a selloff last April and May.

“Investors will keep a close eye for any hints for what type of policy easing will be forthcoming,” said Nick Stamenkovic, a fixed-income strategist at Edinburgh-based broker RIA Capital Markets Ltd. “People are plumping for safety, core government bonds and demanding a higher risk premium on peripherals in particular, and also some semi-core bonds. The upcoming auctions outside of Germany will be a good test of sentiment.”

German 10-year bund yields fell four basis points, or 0.04 percentage point, this week to 0.26 percent as of the 5 p.m. close in London Friday. The 0.5 percent security due February 2026 rose 0.34, or 3.40 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,113) face amount, to 102.355, this week. The yield fell to 0.13 percent on Feb. 11, the lowest since April 23.

The nation’s two-year note yield fell one basis point in the week to minus 0.51 percent, and touched a record-low minus 0.557 percent on Feb. 11.

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