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Italy raises 8 bil. euros in six-month bond sale despite Berlusconi threats

MILAN -- Italy raised 8 billion euros (US$10.32 billion) in six-month bonds at a lower rate on Monday in spite of political unease after threats by ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi to pull support for the government.

Rates for the six-month paper dropped from 1.503 percent at the last similar operation in September, to 1.347 percent, according to the Bank of Italy.

The auction followed a sale of medium- and long-term bonds on Friday, at which the Italian treasury borrowed 4 billion euros at lower rates.

Monday's sale followed a hot weekend in Italy, during which Berlusconi said his People of Freedom (PDL) party was evaluating whether to pull its support for Prime Minister Mario Monti in a move which would force early elections.

Berlusconi — who was found guilty of tax fraud on Friday — was forced out in November as Italy struggled with the eurozone debt crisis.

While a series of austerity measures and structural reforms imposed by Monti have calmed the markets, some analysts wonder if Berlusconi's threats may spark renewed tension.

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