France’s Risk Premium Over Germany Closes at Highest Since 2012

(Bloomberg) -- Investors are demanding the biggest premium in over a decade to hold French bonds compared to safer German debt, as concerns mount that parties vying to win France’s upcoming legislative elections may further bloat public finances.

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The spread between the two nations’ 10-year bond yields rose three basis points to 80 basis points on Friday, the widest on a closing basis since 2012, when the euro area was in the depths of its debt crisis. Some investors say the gap could rise to 100 basis points.

“The intensity of the move has reminded markets of the volatility seen during the Eurozone debt crisis a decade ago,” TD Securities rates strategists including Pooja Kumra and Rich Kelly wrote in a Friday note. “The key is how contagious this move will be to wider European government bonds and global rates.”

France’s leftist alliance unveiled plans earlier in the day to address the country’s economic challenges, including €150 billion ($160 billion) of additional annual spending by 2027. It also reaffirmed intentions to abolish several of President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business reforms.

French markets sold off sharply after Macron dissolved the National Assembly and called a snap vote as his party was trounced by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in European Union elections. The election gamble has put France’s stretched public accounts back in focus and raised questions about the future of Macron’s agenda.

On Wednesday, the European Commission reprimanded France for running budget deficits above the bloc’s 3% limit, leaving the country subject to the so-called Excessive Deficit Procedure that requires remedial action and can lead to fines for non compliance.

--With assistance from Carter Johnson.

(Updates to include comment in third paragraph.)

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