LONDON — Ireland sold more than 5.2 billion euros (US$6.4 billion) in long-term bonds Thursday for the first time in nearly two years, passing a major test of investor sentiment toward the bailed-out nation and improving its chances of returning full time to normal borrowing next year.
Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency said the surprise auction of five-year and eight-year bills was aimed primarily at existing institutional holders of Irish bonds due for redemption in 2013 and 2014.
But in a sign of growing market confidence, most of Thursday’s buyers invested new cash rather than flipping their existing debt holdings. And the total sale was close to double the figure touted beforehand by Dublin analysts and government officials. The 2017 bonds offered a yield of 5.9 percent, the 2020 bonds 6.1 percent.
“This marks a very significant step for Ireland on the way to full bond market access,” said treasury chief John Corrigan.