ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece said it had received strong interest for its first bond issue in four years on Thursday, when it auctioned off five-year debt amid growing signs of market confidence.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece said it had received strong interest for its first bond issue in four years on Thursday, when it auctioned off five-year debt amid growing signs of market confidence.

The country, which has been locked out of the market by high borrowing costs since 2010, was initially seeking to raise 2.5 billion in the sale. The final results of the auction, including the average interest rate it will pay investors, were not yet made public. But officials indicated they were good.

Speaking during an early morning television news show, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said there was "great interest" in the bond.

"We have, if I'm not mistaken, a six-fold coverage," he said. Greece can choose to accept more bids than they originally aimed for if the interest rate is attractive.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, speaking during a speech at a European Union event in Athens, said "Greece has succeeded and this is recognized by our most critical friends and partners in achieving an exit from the crisis, or is very close to an exit from the crisis."

"After four years for fiscal adjustments and structural reforms, the Greek economy is beginning to show the first encouraging signs of balance and recovery," he added.

Greece has been dependent on international bailout funds for the past four years, provided on condition it imposed series of deeply resented spending cuts and tax hikes. However, the country's interest rates have been falling recently as its public finances have improved following tough austerity measures.

The bond auction is a sign of how market confidence in the country has improved. However, ratings agencies still consider Greek bonds to be far from investment grade, rating them with junk status. The country has not committed to regular auctions of long-term debt, and still draws funds from its bailout from the International Monetary Fund and other eurozone countries.