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Spain today ruled out needing a bailout and said results of additional checks on the solidity of its savings banks would be published next spring, as its government and central bank stepped up efforts to calm uneasy investors.
As concerns that the euro zone debt crisis could spread to Spain and Portugal gripped markets, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said there was “absolutely” no chance Spain would need outside help to manage its finances.
The government also has no plans for further fiscal measures, he said, adding that traders should think twice about betting against the Spanish economy.
“Those who are taking short positions against Spain are going to be mistaken,” he told RAC1 radio.
The premium on Spanish government bonds over benchmark German debt widened to a new euro-lifetime high, as markets targeted larger euro zone periphery states while policymakers denied reports that Portugal was being pressured to seek a bailout.
Markets have continued to sell off Spain's sovereign bonds, with worries about the stability of its banks revived by the major role that Ireland's lenders played in forcing Dublin into resorting to a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.
Javier Ariztegui, deputy governor of the Bank of Spain, today urged the country's regional savings banks, hard hit by a burst property bubble, to push ahead with mergers. He said the results of additional stress tests would be ready by late March.
These tests, to be published ahead of parallel checks in other parts of the EU, would cover “complementary information on promotion and construction, on residential mortgages, detailing collateral and corresponding loan-to-value ratios,” he said.
With the exception of a handful of small unlisted savings banks, all of Spain's banks passed July's Europe-wide stress tests. But analysts have questioned the relevance of that testing since the Irish bailout was announced.
Zapatero reiterated that his government does not plan any tax hikes on top of a one-percentage-point rise in the value added tax earlier this year.
“The VAT rise has contributed a lot to our deficit reduction,” he said, referring to figures Tuesday showing Spain's central government deficit had fallen by 47.3 percent during the year to October compared with a year earlier.