Markets jump on Spain bank rescue, concern lingers
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
MADRID, June 11: World markets rallied Monday after Spain won a huge rescue loan for its banks, but the deal failed to banish fears over its debt or the risk of a Greek-driven eurozone breakup.
Spain´s eurozone partners agreed to extend up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to salvage a banking sector weakened by reckless lending in a property bubble that collapsed in 2008.
The rescue, which represented a U-turn by Madrid, eased concern about the risk of a Spanish financial sector calamity, but the sheer size of the loan fed concerns over Spain´s fast-growing public debt.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faced rising criticism, too, after selling the deal as a victory and refusing to describe it as the banking rescue that he had repeatedly ruled out.
Madrid´s IBEX-35 index soared 5.93 percent in opening trade but the rally moderated later and by early afternoon the key index was up 2.68 percent at 6,727.3 points.
In afternoon trading, London´s FTSE 100 index gained 0.90 percent, Frankfurt´s DAX 30 put on 1.70 percent and in Paris the CAC 40 rose 1.60 percent. Earlier, Tokyo advanced 1.96 percent and Hong Kong 2.44 percent.
The euro rose to $1.2602 from $1.2514 late Friday.
But Spanish 10-year government bond yields, after easing at the open, rose to 6.278 percent by early afternoon from 6.216 percent on Friday -- well above the six-percent level widely regarded as unsustainable over the longer term.
Keen to show no let-up in the government´s austerity drive and to banish concerns about the loan´s impact on Spain´s public debt, the Economy Ministry and Treasury issued a joint statement Monday to reassure investors.
"The Spanish government remains committed to the programme of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms that has earned Spain the confidence of its European partners," it said.
The Treasury vowed to carry on tapping the markets after raising 56.8 percent of the total 86 billion euros it plans this year through regular auctions of medium- and long-term bonds.
Borrowing 100 billion euros in one go would raise Spain´s public debt level by about 10 percentage points of gross domestic product.
"This financial assistance will not only not undermine the present conditions of the current stock of Spanish public debt; it will also reinforce its overall solvency," the Spanish authorities said.
A formal request for aid is expected by the next eurozone finance ministers meeting scheduled for June 21 in preparation for a full European Union summit on June 28-29, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Sunday.
The final figure will be known after the EU, European Central Bank and IMF finish a review of the situation and a formal accord will then be signed, he said.
European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj told Spanish public television that it would be "reasonable" to charge a rate of 3.0-4.0 percent on the loan, but the final figure would depend on market conditions.
A report by Barclays Capital analysts said that a loan of 70-80 billion euros would push up Spain´s public debt by 7.0-7.5 percentage points from the end-2011 level of 68.5 percent of economic output.
Under this scenario, Spanish public debt would likely peak at 95 percent of economic output by 2015, they predicted, meaning that fundamentally the state would remain solvent.
"However, the problem confronted by Spain and the rest of the periphery is bigger," the analysts said, warning that the crisis could not end while there remained a risk of fragile economies leaving the eurozone.
Lee Hardman, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, said the increase in debt levels would leave Spain "even more vulnerable to a further negative shock".
Greece´s June 17 elections could also panic the markets if voters elect a government that rejects austerity conditions for the country´s bailout, potentially leading to its stormy exit from the eurozone
"The unstable political situation in Greece which could potentially lead to Greece exiting the euro could prompt additional capital flight from Spain despite the recapitalisation plan," Hardman said in a report.
Spain´s prime minister faced criticism after telling reporters Sunday the deal ensured "the credibility of the euro" and insisting that rather than buckling to pressure for the rescue, he had sought it all along.
Rajoy attended the Spain-Italy football game in Poland on Sunday evening, assuring journalists that he was going because the problem had been dealt with.
An editorial in El Pais said Rajoy had sought to argue that the eurozone had no choice but to open up its coffers to Spain to avoid the breakup of the single currency region.
"But there lies an abyss between that and saying that he was going to the Spain game in the Euro in Poland because ´yesterday´s matter´ was ´resolved´," the paper said.