Euro zone bond yields fall as ECB strategy review eyed

* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields

July 8 (Reuters) – Euro zone bond yields edged down on Thursday as a global bond rally continued on Wednesday, while investor focus turned to the European Central Bank’s strategy review.

European Central Bank policy makers have agreed to raise their inflation goal to 2% – from close to but below 2% currently – and allow room to overshoot that target “when needed”, according to a Bloomberg News report citing officials familiar with the matter.

With such a revision to adopt a symmetrical inflation target – where a central bank responds to inflation undershoots as well as overshoots – already expected by the market, focus is on the details that will be released officially at 1100 GMT, followed by a news conference at 1230 GMT. The bank will also release its June meeting minutes.

The news had little market impact and euro area bond yields, which fell as a global bond rally led by U.S. Treasuries continued on Wednesday.

“It’s pretty non-committal what we’ve had from these reports. The fact that they’re going to drop the below 2% is completely expected,” said Antoine Bouvet, senior rates strategist at ING.

“It could even come as a disappointment if (ECB President Christine Lagarde) doesn’t make any further dovish soundbites or if they stop at that.”

Focusing on how the target might be achieved, UniCredit analysts are looking to see whether the ECB would allow its conventional asset purchases to deviate from self-imposed rules on how much of each issuer’s debt it can buy – a flexibility that defines its pandemic emergency bond purchases, which are expected to slow later this year and expire in 2022.

German 10-year yields, the euro zone benchmark, were down 3 basis points to -0.32% by 0738 GMT, led by U.S. Treasuries, where 10-year yields were down nearly 4 basis points.

The risk premium on Italian bonds – a key beneficiary of ECB stimulus – widened to 105 bps.

Market participants say the bond rally is a result of hedge funds unwinding bets on rising U.S. Treasury yields once the 10-year benchmark fell below 1.40%.

But it also reflects fears around the spread of the more infectious COVID-19 delta variant and disappointment in economic data.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s June meeting minutes showed officials last month felt substantial progress on the U.S. economic recovery “was generally seen as not having yet been met,” but agreed they should be posied to act if inflation or other risks materialized.

The minutes did little to clarify when the Fed will begin to change its monthly bond purchases and pushed Treasury yields lower.

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