Euro area yields rise as focus back to supply with Irish 20-year bond

* Ireland to sell 20-year bond as long-dated bond sales continue

* German 10-year yield rises to four week high

* Rises above -0.26%, breaks tight range since end-Feb - Mizuho

AMSTERDAM, April 15 (Reuters) - Benchmark German bond yields touched four-week highs on Thursday as the market turned its focus back to issuance with a long-dated bond sale by Ireland.

Ireland started the sale of a new 20-year bond expected to raise 2 to 3 billion euros, hot on the heels of long-dated issuance from Austria and Spain earlier this week and Italy last week, which issued up to 50-year maturities.

Long-dated issuance has resurfaced after dying down in February when the bond sell-off driven by growth and inflation expectations hit longer-dated bonds particularly hard, as they are more sensitive to a rise in underlying rates. Bond yields move inversely with prices.

“Ireland having announced an additional 20-year deal indicates that appetite for long-dated deals remains healthy from issuers, even with the approaching ECB meeting,” ING analysts said, referring to next week’s European Central Bank meeting.

Euro zone bond yields continued edging up on Thursday, with Germany’s 10-year yield, the benchmark for the region, touching its highest in four weeks at -0.249% in early trade. It was last unchanged on the day at -0.26% at 0706 GMT.

Heavy supply has put pressure on euro area bonds this week. News that the European Union will receive additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during the second quarter and the bigger-than-expected drop in U.S. crude oil stockpiles on Wednesday have also put upward pressure on safe-haven bond yields, which tend to rise with developments seen as positive for the economy, analysts said.

Mizuho analysts said that the 10-year yields move above -0.26% “would be significant in breaking the tight range that has held since end-Feb.”

Verbal intervention and an acceleration of the ECB’s bond purchases had calmed euro area bonds in March and German yields dropped then.

But they are rising again in April and have underperformed U.S. Treasuries, whose yields have fallen this month.

Mizuho analysts expect Germany’s 10-year yield to rise to -0.15% by the end of the second quarter.

On the data front, focus is on U.S. retail sales due at 1230 GMT. (Reporting by Yoruk Bahceli. Editing by Mark Potter)