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The euro zone's debt crisis deepened on Tuesday, with investors pushing the risk premium on Spanish and Italian government bonds to euro lifetime highs amid concern weaker member states may ultimately be forced to default.
European policymakers appeared at a loss to calm markets hell-bent on testing their determination to rescue countries like
The borrowing costs of countries like
A Reuters survey of 55 leading fund management houses showed
"The crisis of confidence in Europe can't be resolved quickly," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in
Markets are already discounting an eventual rescue of
While a Portuguese rescue would be manageable, assistance for its larger neighbour
Citigroup Chief Economist Willem Buiter described the turbulence hitting the euro zone as an "opening act" and predicted that sovereign default fears could soon extend to
"There is no such thing as an absolutely safe sovereign," he wrote in a research note.
EURO SLIDES, SPREADS WIDEN
The euro has shed nearly 8 percent of its value against the dollar this month.
The yield spreads of 10-year Spanish, Italian and Belgian bonds over German benchmarks spiked to their highest levels since the birth of the euro in January 1999 and the cost of protecting against a euro zone sovereign default surged.
"There is no reason for concern, no risk," said Francois Baroin,
Italian officials also scrambled to play down the risks for their economy, the euro zone's third largest, which some economists have labeled "too big to bail."
Weakened governments in
"It's very worrying because
Although the minority Socialist government in
Data released on Tuesday underscored economic divergences within the euro zone, which pose an increasing challenge to the European Central Bank and its one-size-fits-all monetary policy.
German unemployment fell in November for a 16th straight month while
Greek retail sales plunged 9.9 percent year-on-year in September under the weight of crushing austerity measures agreed in exchange for its 110 billion euro bailout.
In addition to
Although private bondholders will not be asked to share the cost of debt restructurings until after mid-2013 and then only on a case-by-case basis, the mechanism has stoked fears of future defaults and the likelihood of so-called "haircuts" down the road.
Eurointelligence, an online commentary service, said markets were growing increasingly concerned about the solvency of euro zone peripheral states after focusing mainly on their short-term liquidity problems in past weeks.
"We at Eurointelligence consider a default of