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BlackRock's Thiel long Italian bonds, expects market-friendly budget outcome

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BlackRock's Thiel long Italian bonds, expects market-friendly budget outcome
A sign for BlackRock Inc hangs above their building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson   -   Copyright  LUCAS JACKSON(Reuters)
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By Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON (Reuters) – BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has moved recently to a long position in Italian bonds on expectations of a market-friendly outcome to the budget discussions, the company’s deputy chief investment officer for fixed income said on Tuesday.

Italian markets have experienced violent gyrations in recent months on fear the coalition government will embark on a spending binge that will worsen the country’s debt burden. While some of those fears have abated of late, Italian yields trade significantly higher than those of other southern European sovereigns such as Spain or Portugal.

Ten-year Italian yields stand around 2.87 percent compared to 1.5 percent in Spain and 1.8 in Portugal <IT10YT=RR> <ES10YT=RR> <PT10YT=RR>.

BlackRock’s Scott Thiel told reporters however that Italian debt “offers an attractive valuation, especially versus other peripheral markets”.

“The Italian situation seems to be moving towards a more market-friendly outcome,” he said adding he had recently gone long Italy, having shifted from a short position early in the year to neutral and now long.

Several top government officials have said the government would respect European Union rules on fiscal discipline during ongoing budget talks and Economy Minister Giovanni Tria is said to be holding firm on keeping the budget deficit in check.

“In our opinion, the two parties are more conscious of how to implement their policies within a European mandate,” Thiel added.

Thiel said he had turned more positive on the British pound, seeing its near-term direction as higher.

“It does appear that the Brexit situation has become more positive,” he said, adding that a level of $1.35 was “not out of the question” should it appear that Britain would reach agreement on exiting the European Union next March with a trade deal in place.

Sterling currently trades around $1.31 <GBP=D3>, having rallied almost 4 percent in the past month on reports the two sides were close to reaching an agreement on Brexit.

Thiel also sees the selloff in emerging markets as “overdone”. The sector has been battered this year by a strong dollar and fears of a global trade war.

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Writing by Sujata Rao; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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