Spain's borrowing costs jumped at auctions of its short-term debt on Tuesday, compared with sales in August, hitting their highest in around three years.
The Treasury managed to hit the top of its 3.5-4.5 billion euro target for its 12- and 18-month treasury bills and attract reasonable demand. It paid yields of around 20 basis points more on both issues.
Spain's and Italy have been supported by the European Central Bank's intervention since early August to buy bonds already circulating in the secondary market.
ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet urged Spain in a newspaper interview to continue reinforcing measures to return the country to sustainable growth even if progress had been made.
But the ECB's purchases have not shaken off concerns that a debt crisis can be fully contained, and Standard & Poor's downgrade of Italy's credit rating one notch to A on Tuesday heightened the gloom and sent both Italian and Spanish bond yields higher.
That did not help Tuesday's auction, said analysts.
"Spanish debt has been under pressure. But it's a pretty decent auction which has let the Treasury sell close to the top of its target in difficult circumstances," said Orlando Green, strategist at Credit Agricole.
The average yield on the 12-month bill was 3.591 percent, compared with 3.335 percent last month, and it was 3.807 percent on the longer dated paper, up from 3.592 percent in August. They were the highest levels since 2008 and 2007 respectively.
Last August Spain paid 1.836 and 2.078 percent to finance the same maturities.
The worsening borrowing conditions showed Spain still has some way to go to assure markets that the crisis won't spread further.
Trichet said Spain's financial situation had improved considerably but more must be done.
"Spain must continue to give special focus to resolutely applying new structural reforms with the aim of getting the highest possible potential growth, improving its productivity and thus restoring investor confidence," he said in an interview published on Tuesday in Expansion newspaper.
Spain has introduced new labour laws which make it easier to hire and fire workers and restrict wage growth. It has also overhauled its banking sector, forcing unlisted savings banks to seek private capital or face nationalisation.
The bid-to-cover ratio on the 12-month paper rose to 2.8 from 2.1 last month but fell to 2.7 on the 18-month bill from 3.2 in August.
The ECB bought 9.8 billion euros worth of bonds last week, down from 14 billion euros the week before, and not enough to allay concerns over Greece's latest aid tranche or that it might eventually default on its obligations.
The Treasury last tapped bond markets on Sep. 15 in largely well received sales of three bonds. However the Treasury paid a hefty premium to investors to sell them.
On Tuesday the risk premium Spain pays on its 10-year debt compared with benchmark German bunds was 357 basis points, falling from 369 bps in early trade.
ReutersLast Mod: 20 Eylül 2011, 16:28