* Three-, six-month paper sells at negative rates
* First time since T-bills sold in current form
* Investors flock to safety from euro zone crisis (Recasts, adds detail)
COPENHAGEN, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Investors paid Denmark to lend it short-term funds for the first time on Thursday, reflecting increasing market stress in the search for safe havens away from the euro zone debt crisis.
The central bank said it sold 2.32 billion Danish crowns ($404 million) of three-, six-, and nine-month treasury bills at an oversubscribed auction, with the two shorter maturities selling at negative interest rates.
The rate at the cut-off price for the bill maturing on March 1 was negative 0.21 percent and the rate for the June 1 bill was negative 0.07 percent.
The rate on the bill maturing on Sept. 3 was 0.03 percent.
Ove Jensen, head of the debt management department at the central bank, said secondary market rates on the bills had been negative since the bank’s last T-bill auction last month.
“(But) this is the first auction we have had with negative interest rates,” he added, referring to Denmark’s issuance programme since the early 1990s, when it first sold T-bills in their current form.
“There is a flight-to-quality argument...that the interest rate is not so important, what is important is that you get your money back,” he said.
Bids for the three series of bills totalled 6.62 billion crowns, the Nationalbank said. Settlement is on Jan 2.
Nykredit chief economist John Madsen said it had become “more the rule than the exception” that Danish debt yields were below their German counterparts.
The yield premium for holding 10-year Bunds over equivalent Danish bonds was around 20 basis points at 1150 GMT.
“This is proof of investors’ strong confidence in the stabilisation-focused fiscal policy here at home and Denmark’s potential status as a safe haven in a troubled and debt-plagued Europe,” Madsen said.
The central bank, which holds a monthly auction of treasury bills, said earlier this month it would keep its T-bill programme going in 2012 at the 2011 level of 44 billion crowns.
In 2011, the bank has already pre-funded much of the government’s 2012 borrowing requirement by selling bonds and will soon begin financing for 2013, Jensen said.
“We will finish (financing for 2012) some time during the first half year, some time in the second quarter,” he said.
Jensen said the central bank has a large funding buffer and is under no pressure to sell bonds to cover its 2012 needs.
$1 = 5.7428 Danish crowns $1 = 5.7428 Danish crowns Reporting by John Acher and Ole Mikkelsen; Editing by John Stonestreet