January 29, 2018 / 9:03 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 3-German five-year bond yields turn positive, first time since 2015

* German 5-yr yields hit 0.013 pct, highest since late 2015

* Knot: ECB should be clear on ending QE after Sept

* UST yields at new highs

* Euro zone periphery govt bond yields tmsnrt.rs/2ii2Bqr (Updates prices)

By Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Five-year German bond yields turned positive for the first time since late 2015 on Monday and yields across the euro area hit fresh highs after a European Central Bank policymaker said the ECB should make clear it would end its bond purchases this year.

Dutch central bank chief Klaas Knot said on Sunday the ECB should make clear that it will end its asset purchases after the current bond buying programme ends in September, adding: “There is no reason whatsoever to continue the programme.”

The comments, together with a sell-off in U.S. Treasuries, cemented a bearish tone in bond markets, which have been hit in recent weeks by growing expectations that major central banks are moving closer to unwinding the extraordinary stimulus that has underpinned low borrowing costs for so long.

In Germany, the euro zone’s biggest economy, five-year borrowing costs rose to a high of 0.017 percent, turning positive for the first time in more than three years. They were last trading at 0.002 percent.

Germany’s 10-year bond yield rose to its highest in more than two-years at 0.625 percent, according to Tradeweb prices, while Reuters data — which uses a different benchmark bond — had it as high as 0.707 percent at one stage .

German two-year bond yields hit their highest since mid-2016 at minus 0.51 percent.

Across the euro area, 10-year bond yields were up 2-5 basis points on the day, with French and Dutch yields climbing to multi-month highs.

“The Knot comments are a factor behind the sell-off in bonds today,” said DZ Bank rates strategist Andy Cossor. “There’s also the sell-off in U.S. Treasuries.”

The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.724 percent , its highest level since early 2014, while two-year Treasury yields rose to 2.161 percent — their highest since 2008.

Comments from the Bank of Japan governor on Friday that inflation is finally close to reaching its target added to a sense of a turnaround in policy among major central banks.

The ECB meanwhile surprised markets by striking a modestly dovish tone last week in the face of a robust euro, leaving German bond yields with a sixth straight week of weekly rises on Friday.

“We are hitting psychological levels at the moment - 5-year German bond yields are above zero percent and 2-year bonds yields are at -50 bps,” said Orlando Green, European fixed income strategist at Credit Agricole. “It’s difficult to get in the way of the momentum at the moment.”

Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Editing by Ralph Boulton

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