Spain: ¿Cómo se dice “contagion”?

April 4, 2012

It was not a good day for Spain.

The euro zone’s fourth largest economy had to pay dearer to borrow through medium-term bonds, a sign that concerns over the country´s fiscal problems was curbing appetite for its debt. It sold 2.6 billion euros of 2015, 2016 and 2020 paper – at the low end of the target range.

In contrast, Portugal’s 1 billion euros sale of 18-month treasury bills was a successful test of market appetite for the longest-dated debt since it took an international bailout. Appetite for short-dated paper has been especially supported by the one trillion euros of cheap three-year European Central Bank funding injected into the financial system since December.

The problem is that Spain is the latest country to come into the firing line of the euro zone debt crisis. This week’s tough budget was not enough to calm investor nerves and many fear too much austerity could choke an already struggling economy where unemployment rose to a staggering 22.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 – the highest in the European Union. Meanwhile, the government expects Spain’s public debt to jump in 2012 to its highest since at least 1990.

And although Spain has already sold around 46 percent of this year’s planned issuance of long-term debt and therefore is in a favourable funding position compared to its peers, analysts worry it could become the next source of euro zone contagion. In the secondary market, yields on 10-year Spanish government bonds rose to their highest since January at 5.72 percent after the auction.

DZ Bank rate strategist Michael Leister says:

It was only a lukewarm auction. This shows that the LTRO (ECB’s long-term refinancing operation) effect is losing momentum and that Spain is having a much more difficult time.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the full impact of the second LTRO had yet to work its way through the financial system at a press conference held after the central bank decided to keep interest rates unchanged at a record low of 1.0 percent.

As conditions in Spain suggest, the jury is still out.

Thanks to Pablo Rodriguez for the Spanish punctuation tips.

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