* Ireland expected to launch 30-year bond deal Wednesday
* Portugal to sell long-dated bonds
* ECB chief Draghi to speak later in session
* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr
By Dhara Ranasinghe
LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - Irish and Portuguese bond yields hovered near historic lows on Wednesday as the two countries readied to take advantage of investor demand for fixed income with sales of long-dated debt.
Ireland’s debt agency said on Tuesday it would sell a new 2050 bond via a syndicate of banks and analysts said the deal could be launched as early as Wednesday. Portugal is set to auction 10 and 15-year bonds this session.
A weak backdrop for the euro zone economy and a perception that the European Central Bank (ECB) will keep rates at record low levels for longer than anticipated has sparked a stellar rally in fixed income this year.
Sluggish growth globally and a dovish tone from central banks has only accelerated fund inflows into bonds. New Zealand’s central bank on Wednesday cut interest rates for the first time in 2-1/2 years.
But with yields on higher-rated countries such as 10-year German government debt back below zero percent, which essentially means investors are paying to hold that debt, investors have moved into lower-rated markets to secure a yield.
That makes a favourable backdrop for Irish and Portuguese bond sales, which would follow strong demand for a sale of new 30-year bonds from Cyprus in April.
“With the prospect of the ECB keeping rates low for a long time, looking at a bond from say Ireland is favourable,” said ING senior rates strategist Benjamin Schroeder.
Ireland’s 10-year bond yield was steady in early trade at around 0.51 percent, having hit its lowest level since December 2017 on Tuesday at around 0.50 percent.
Portugal’s 10-year bond yield was marginally higher ahead of the bond auction but close to recent record lows around 1.09 percent.
Having fallen sharply on Tuesday after the European Commission lowered its growth forecasts for the euro zone economy, most bond yields in the currency bloc were steady.
The exception was Italy, where bond yields were three to four basis points higher on the day . Concerns about weak economic growth and a rising budget deficit are again putting upward pressure on Italy’s borrowing costs.
The European Commission on Tuesday cut its growth prediction for Italy and said its public finances would deteriorate further, in an assessment that could reignite a dispute with Rome over its budget after the two sides reached an uneasy compromise in December. (Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Editing by Janet Lawrence)