Spain's cost of borrowing on the international debt markets rose sharply again today, increasing worries it may become the latest member of the eurozone to seek a financial bailout.
The yield - the interest rate Spain would have to pay to raise money on the debt markets - on 10-year government bonds jumped to 6.10% on the secondary market. It had closed at 5.93% on Friday after a week of persistent market tension.
The yield is the highest since the country's new conservative government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took office in December.
The 10-year bond yield surged toward 7% late last year, a rate considered unsustainable for a country over a long period. Greece, Portugal and Ireland had to ask for bailouts after their yields stayed above 7%.
Although the administration has implemented a barrage of labour and financial reforms, investors remain worried about Spain on several fronts:
- the country's banks are weighed down by a mountain of bad loans from the collapse of the property market in 2008.
- many of the Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regional governments have overspent wildly.
- Spain is expected to enter its second recession in three years this quarter, with the country's central bank forecasting its economy will contract 1.7% this year. The unemployment rate is 23%, rising up to almost 50% for those aged under 30.
The jump in Spain's yield comes at the beginning of a week in which the country's Treasury holds two rounds of bond auctions - 12- and 18-month bills on Tuesday, and benchmark 10-year bonds on Thursday.
The government insists it will have no trouble financing itself this year and that auctions held so far this year have gone well. But that changed almost two weeks ago, when a medium-term debt auction hit the bottom end of what the Treasury targeted, triggering the latest increase in yields and placing Spain firmly back into the centre of the eurozone debt crisis.
The situation was not helped by government-released data Friday showing the country's troubled banks borrowed a record from the European Central Bank in March, demonstrating the difficulty they have securing financing elsewhere.
Monday's bond market jitters extended to Italy, viewed as another weak link in the 17-nation eurozone. Its 10-year bond yield rose to 5.60% from about 5.50% on Friday.
After the bailing out Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the eurozone has agreed to increase the size of its financial firewall to help out its members should they fail to raise money from the markets.
ut Spain's economy is twice the size of the previous three bailout victims put together and analysts say the firewall is not large enough to deal with the potential threats coming from Spain and Italy.