Spain auctions off $5.4 billion in midterm bonds

AP News
Posted: Oct 20, 2011 7:58 AM
Spain auctions off $5.4 billion in midterm bonds

Spain easily raised euro3.9 billion ($5.4 billion) Thursday in an auction of bonds maturing over the next decade, in its first big-scale foray in the markets since the three major ratings agencies downgraded their views on the government's debt.

The average interest rate on the 2021 bonds was down to 5.4 percent from 5.9 percent the last comparable auction on July 21. It also offered bonds maturing in 2017 and 2019.

The Treasury had hoped to auction off a total of between euro3.25 billion and euro4.25 billion on Thursday, so the amount raised was near the top-end of exceptions.

The sale came two days after Moody's downgraded Spain's sovereign government debt rating to "A1" from "Aa2." Rivals Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings likewise cut Spain's rating earlier this month.

After nearly two years of recession, Spanish unemployment is at nearly 21 percent, credit is tight, the banking sector is weak and the private sector carries heavy debt. The ongoing crisis throughout Europe is further weighing on the nation's attempts to address its problems. Prospects for growth are also very weak.

On Wednesday night Moody's also downgraded the debt ratings of 10 Spanish regional governments, including one _ Castilla-La Mancha _ to junk-bond status.

The agency also cut the long term senior debt and deposit ratings of five Spanish banks, including the country's three largest _ Santander, BBVA and Caixabank.

Meanwhile, the austerity measures being taken in much of Spain led to another strike in Madrid-area secondary schools, for kids ranging in age from 12-18. It is the sixth school day disrupted since the year began, and this time primary school teachers were to join in.

Around 68 percent of secondary school teachers and 50 percent at the primary school level participated in the strike, according to the UGT union. More stoppages are expected in November.

The immediate trigger for the strike was an order forcing them to teach an extra two hours of class per week so fewer teachers can be hired this year. Education is run at the regional level in Spain and the Madrid regional government is controlled by the center-right Popular Party.

But the teachers say their underlying gripe is the feeling that education is being treated as an expense rather than an investment in the country's future and if budget cuts must be made, they should be enacted elsewhere.