Spanish aid request could calm speculation: Monti

A Spanish request for help from the eurozone's new bailout fund could help calm the markets, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said Friday.

"When we see that the (European Stability) Mechanism exists and works, I imagine that that will give a less agressive aspect to speculation, or at least to the markets," Monti said at a meeting with foreign media in Milan.

He again said that so far as he was concerned, Italy did not need help.

Spain vowed Thursday to defy predictions of a deep recession next year after a credit rating downgrade left its debt hovering above junk-bond status and jolted world markets.

Standard & Poor's sliced the nation's rating late on Wednesday, citing a deepening recession with one-quarter of workers unemployed, mass protests, and growing political friction between Madrid and the debt-struck regions.

The International Monetary Fund this week predicted the Spanish economy would shrink 1.3 percent next year.

If Spain's sovereign debt is rated as junk, it could trigger a flight of investors, sending borrowing rates soaring and accelerating the timetable for any sovereign rescue.

In early September, the European Central Bank offered a new lifeline to stricken member states, saying it would buy their sovereign bonds on the open markets so as to curb high borrowing rates.

But the offer depends on the recipient nations first applying for help from the eurozone's new European Stability Mechanism, and submitting to its strict conditions.

That is a step right-leaning Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government hesitates to take.

Italy's economic performance is also closely watched by the markets and is paying high interest rates to finance its debt. But Rome insists that substantial progress has been made since Monti took the helm of a government of technocrats in November.

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