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Noonan on whistle-stop tour in hope of new bailout terms

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Mario Draghi

Mario Draghi

REUTERS

Mario Draghi

FANCY lending money to the Irish government? No problem. Just be prepared to pay for it.

We've gone from being priced out of the international money markets just four years ago to now effectively charging investors for holding our debt.

And we're not alone. Yields on two-year debt issued by several other European countries - Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Belgium - have also turned negative.

Finance ministers, particularly in the so-called periphery of the eurozone, have been celebrating the drop in borrowing costs as they're able to get finance at record low rates.

Here, it's spurred the Government to attempt to be able to repay some of its expensive International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt back earlier, by using cheaper market funding to pay off a part of the loan.

So keen is the Government to do this, that Michael Noonan is doing a whistle stop tour of European capitals next week to get permission to change the original bailout deal which stated paying off the IMF portion meant automatic repayment of the less onerous EU part.

Some countries have also been taking advantage by locking in the low rates for a long period.

Spain this week issued its first 50-year bond which isn't due for repayment until your correspondent may no longer be around, and some younger readers are grey and weary.

The idea is to spread debt over a longer period of time and diversify Spain's investor base.

But if on the face of it having lower, or even negative, borrowing costs appears a good thing, the underlying reasons behind it are more worrying.

Even prior to Thursday's ECB move, the feeling was that yields were falling because of stagnant economic data in the euro zone and fears that Europe was facing the prospect of a lost decade akin to the deflation experienced in Japan.

Analysts will say the reaction by short-term bonds is also due to moves by the ECB, which in June cut the rate it pays banks to hold money overnight into negative territory and pushed it down further this week, in a bid to kick-start the sluggish euro economy.

Some experts have dismissed the fact that Irish government policy has pushed the yields so low.

They'll point to the Draghi effect for pushing yields down across Europe - and the fact that the ECB boss said at the height of the crisis he'll do whatever it takes to save the euro.

But the fact that Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal are all being charged to borrow on a short-term capacity and we're not, would seem to suggest that Michael Noonan has done some things right.

Irish Independent