* German Bund yield holds below 6-week high on dovish ECB
* Most euro zone bond yields little changed
* U.S. Q2 GDP data awaited, BOJ in focus
* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr (Adds U.S. GDP growth data, Italy's Beppo Grillo comments, updates prices)
By Dhara Ranasinghe
LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) - Borrowing costs in the euro zone’s biggest economy, Germany, held below six-week highs on Friday, a day after the European Central Bank’s (ECB) president backed market expectations for a rise in interest rates late next year.
Most 10-year bond yields in the bloc remained steady as U.S. economic growth data showed the world’s biggest economy grew at its fastest pace in nearly four years in the second quarter.
“In fixed income markets, the main question today is whether the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield...will break the 3 percent mark in the wake of the U.S. GDP release,” a UniCredit note said.
However, that number stayed just below 3 percent, though it did briefly touch a seven-week high of 2.988 percent.
Markets were reluctant to push bond yields too far in any one direction before Monday’s Bank of Japan meeting, given recent reports that the central bank is debating moves to scale back its massive monetary stimulus.
For now, however, Thursday’s ECB meeting provided some comfort for euro zone bond markets.
ECB chief Mario Draghi reaffirmed plans to end the bank’s 2.6 trillion euro stimulus programme this year and keep rates low “through the summer of 2019”.
Asked to unpack this formulation, which has given rise to diverging interpretations, Draghi said market expectations were “very well aligned” with the central bank’s own.
Money markets price in a 10-basis-point (bps) rise in the ECB’s minus 0.40 percent deposit rate in October 2019, in what would be the first hike since 2011.
“There was a dovish spin relative to what one could have expected, given a recent source-based story that some members of the governing council were not happy with the market pricing on rates,” Commerzbank head of rates Christoph Rieger said.
Germany’s 10-year Bund yield was flat at 0.40 percent , holding below almost six-week highs hit this week at 0.424 percent.
Two-year German bond yields pulled back from six-week highs touched on Thursday at minus 0.60 percent.
Elsewhere, Italian shares erased gains and two-year bond yields spiked briefly on Friday with traders citing comments from the founder of Italy’s ruling party 5-Star Movement in support of a referendum over Italy’s membership of the euro.
Most euro zone bond yields were set to end the week higher for a second week running, with 10-year bond yields in France and Germany up roughly three bps on the week.
That reflects an easing in trade-war fears after talks between the United States and European Union this week and speculation about potential tweaks to BOJ policy.
Japan’s 10-year government bond yield slipped off a one-year high on Friday after the BOJ conducted special, unlimited buying for the second time this week.
Most market players expect central bankers meeting on Monday to stop short of making immediate policy changes and to say instead that they will study ways to reduce the side-effects of the prolonged easing, such as hits to banks’ profits.
“The elephant in the room could be the BOJ, which is very hard to assess,” Commerzbank’s Rieger said.
Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe, Editing by Louise Ireland, William Maclean