Greece looks to repay IMF early as bond yields tumble

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during a news conference after the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) conference at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Tourist visit the archaeological site of the temple of Zeus which is covered with hailstones after a sudden spring hailstorm in central Athens on Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde leaves after a news conference, after the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) conference at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The ancient temple of Zeus is reflected on a puddle as tourists walks after a spring hailstorm in central Athens on Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Tourist visit the ancient temple of Zeus who isreflected on a puddle as on the background is seen the ancient Acropolis hill after a spring hailstorm in central Athens on Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece — The Greek government on Monday said it is in talks with European bailout lenders to repay its debts to the International Monetary Fund early as market borrowing rates have tumbled to their lowest level since 2005.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Greece is hoping to repay a "significant portion" of its remaining 9.6 billion euros ($10.9 billion) owed to the IMF ahead of schedule.

His remarks Monday follow a meeting in Washington between Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

The yield on Greece's 10-year bond dropped further to 3.28% on Monday, matching levels not seen in 14 years.

Greece would need approval from the eurozone's rescue fund to repay its IMF loans early, but top officials in the agency and the European Commission have already praised the idea.

The left-wing government in Greece — facing national municipal and European elections this year — is planning to boost funding for social programs with the money eventually saved from the cheaper loan repayment, Tzanakopoulos said.

"The IMF loans are expensive, with an interest rate of 5.1% — so that means we can lower debt servicing costs and we will have an increase in the fiscal space to help vulnerable groups in society," he told private News 24/7 radio.

Greece emerged from its third international bailout program last August and has seen significant improvements in the economy, which had been battered by years of recession and budget cuts. Improvements in Greece's bond yields have been accompanied by a boost to the stock market, which on Monday closed up 26.1% for the year.

The country, however, still has a sovereign credit rating below investment grade and a huge national debt worth about 180% of gross domestic product.

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