France Easily Sells $12 Billion In Bond Auctions

Published January 19, 2012 12:18PM (EST)

PARIS (AP) — France easily sold euro9.5 billion ($12.2 billion) in bonds on Thursday despite the recent loss of its cherished Triple A credit rating, another indication that investors aren't overly concerned over the country's ability to pay down its debts.

Late last week, Standard & Poor's downgraded France because of concerns over its economy as well as Europe's ability to get a grip on a debt crisis that's been raging for nearly two years. Eight other countries that use the euro saw their ratings cut, too.

The decision was widely anticipated so the impact has been fairly muted.

On the secondary market, where bonds trade openly after they're issued, the yield, or interest rate, on France's 10-year bonds is back near the 3 percent mark. That is considered a benchmark of investor sentiment and indicates that investors think France remains a good bet.

Towards the end of last year, that rate looked set to cross 4 percent, and many wondered if even the largest of Europe's economies could suffer the same fate as Portugal, Greece and Ireland, all of which have sought bailout loans to avoid bankruptcy.

Since the downgrade, the French Treasury has staged a successful short-term auction and Thursday's longer-term issues continued the trend. Demand was healthy across the board and the amount raised was near the top target.

The interest rates on the two-year, three-year, four-year and 10-year inflation-linked bonds all fell significantly. The rate on 30-year inflation-linked bonds held fairly steady.

The largest issue Thursday was euro3.43 billion ($4.4 billion) worth of 4-year bonds. The average interest rate was 1.89 percent, down from 2.32 percent the last time they were sold in November.

The Treasury also sold euro425 million ($545 million) worth of inflation-linked 10-year bonds with an average interest rate of 1.07 percent, down from 2.32 percent in November.

Though S&P's downgrade hasn't had a big impact in the markets, the loss of the AAA rating was a severe blow to France's self-image and is shaping up to be a major factor in presidential elections this spring.

By Salon Staff

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