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€5bn bond sale puts us on track

IRELAND took the biggest step yet towards exiting the EU/IMF bailout by selling €5bn of benchmark 10-year bonds.

The country is well on track to become the first eurozone country to emerge from a financial crisis bailout.

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) confirmed the success on the market of its first issue of such long-term debt since it was locked out of markets in late 2010. The issue was as much as double the size that many traders had predicted and was significantly oversubscribed, with offers of at least €12bn.

The move signifies that Ireland has firmly returned to the market and "sends an important signal", says one trader.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said: "There has been an extraordinary response to it and I don't think you will have heard me use the word extraordinary before."

The deal means that Ireland has already raised most of its long-term funding target for 2013 and has confirmed its reputation as the 'poster child' of Europe's austerity programme.

The NTMA, which began borrowing again from capital markets last year, has earmarked the 10-year issue its most significant step towards a full market return.

Irish debt now trades with yields below the levels for Spanish and Italian government bonds – two other bailout nations

Yields on Ireland's current benchmark 2020 bond fell further last week after European Union finance ministers agreed to look at how to extend the maturity of emergency loans Ireland and Portugal have received under their bailouts.