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Spain insists no need for full bailout

Elodie Cuzin
Spain said that it had no need of a full-blown bailout even though its borrowing costs were hovering near euro-era records and a vast rescue loomed for its stricken banks.

Spain insisted Wednesday it had no need of a full-blown bailout even though its borrowing costs were hovering near danger levels and a vast rescue loomed for its stricken banks.

Fears mounted among investors that punitive borrowing rates could eventually topple the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, forcing an international rescue that would dwarf those mounted for Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Spain's eurozone partners agreed on June 9 to lend up to 100 billion euros ($127 billion) to save banks laden with bad loans extended during a real estate bubble that imploded in 2008.

But Madrid refuses to consider this a rescue, and dismisses talk of a broader bailout.

"Spain has not been rescued because it does not need to be rescued. Spain has the support of its European partners and European institutions," Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro told parliament.

Madrid is expected to transmit an official request for the aid to its partners at a eurozone finance ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, a European Union diplomat said in Brussels.

"The details are expected to be negotiated tomorrow," said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

The size of the request will depend on two independent audits on troubled Spanish banks that are expected to be finalized on Thursday, one from the German firm Roland Berger, the other from the US firm Oliver Wyman.

"The absence of details (on the size and timing of the aid) has been prejudicial," noted the source.

Despite the Spanish banking rescue deal and weekend Greek elections, which averted the immediate threat of Athens leaving the eurozone, debt markets have punished Spain.

The yield on Spanish benchmark 10-year government bonds shattered the 7.0-percent barrier on Monday for the first time since the creation of the euro in 1999, pushing above 7.2 percent.

By late afternoon Wednesday, the yield had relaxed a little to just over 6.8 percent, still a rate regarded as unsustainable over the longer term.

The Madrid stock market also took a breather, with the IBEX-35 index rising 1.53 percent to close at 6,796.1 points.

Spain managed to raise 3.04 billion euros in an auction of 12- and 18-month notes on Tuesday but it had to pay sharply higher borrowing rates of more than five percent a year.

The battered economy, which is in recession with a 24.4-percent jobless rate, faces a second major test on Thursday when it seeks to raise up to two billion euros in an auction of two-, three- and five-year bonds.

Spain's budget minister hailed a Group of 20 summit in Mexico, where leaders issued a statement saying they welcomed both Spain's plan to recapitalize the banks and the eurozone's loan.

"Spain has, as we found out last night, the express support of the G20 for the programmes the Spanish government is pursuing, among them the recapitalization of the banking sector," Montoro said.

"What we have to send to the Spanish people is a message of confidence, of calm, of security," he said.

"We are in Europe, we are Europe, we are the euro."

The leaders of Spain, Italy, France and Germany meet in Rome on Friday to thrash out a common position on the debt crisis ahead of a full European Union summit in Brussels from June 28-29.

"From a crisis such as the one we are going through we will emerge strengthening Europe, we will emerge strengthening the euro, we will emerge building a common project," Montoro said.

In Spain tens of thousands of public sector workers vented their anger at the banking bailout in demonstrations called in dozens of towns Wednesday to protest spending cuts.

"I don't think this bailout is going to yield any benefit for citizens," said one protester in Madrid, Maria, a 37-year-old high school teacher.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy "is not saying openly what is going to happen with this bailout for the banks, which is surely going to get bigger," she added.