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Spain set to seek European bailout this weekend

If true, at least this would put Greece on the backburner for a while. From Reuters, which has the scoop:

Spain is expected to ask the euro zone for help with recapitalising its stricken banks at the weekend, EU and German sources said on Friday, becoming the fourth country to seek assistance since Europe’s debt crisis began.

Five officials in Brussels and Berlin said the finance ministers of the single currency area would hold a conference call on Saturday morning to discuss a Spanish request for aid, although no figure on the assistance has been set.

The Eurogroup, which comprises the 17 euro zone states, will issue a statement after the call, which is scheduled to take place before midday (1000 GMT), the sources said.

“The announcement is expected for Saturday afternoon,” one of the EU officials said.

The dramatic move comes after Fitch Ratings cut Madrid’s sovereign credit rating by three notches to BBB on Thursday, highlighting the Spanish banking sector’s exposure to bad property loans and to contagion from Greece’s debt crisis.

Spain, with a nominal GDP (as of 2010) of $1.4 trillion, dwarfs that of either Ireland (nominal 2010 GDP = $229 billion), Portugal (nominal GDP = $204 billion) or Greece (GDP = $305 billion).  It is the eurozone’s fourth largest economy, after Germany, France and Italy, and it is the world’s 12-largest economy.

So this bailout would go much further to the heart of the eurozone than the previous bailouts to Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Spain’s growth has stalled (or has been in recession) since 2009 and unemployment was 24.3% as of April 2012.  Although Spain’s banks have been fairly conservative, and Spain ran a surplus (or a very modest deficit) for much of the prior decade, the bust of a construction and property-value boom has left it in the midst of a staggering economic decline that brought Mariano Rajoy and the Partido Popular (PP — People’s Party) to power in December 2011 after nearly a decade of rule by prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE — Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) took much of the brunt of Spanish anger about the sudden economic turn, after implementing harsh budget cuts in response to the reality of reduced revenues and rising anxiety among Spanish bondholders.

So just a little over half a year after taking power, it will be on Rajoy’s watch — Rajoy promised never to accept an aid package — that Spain seeks a bailout. Continue reading Spain set to seek European bailout this weekend