Spain is set to reveal how much trouble its banking system is in when it releases the results of audits of 14 lenders on Friday.
The stress tests’ findings will help the country decide how much money it will tap from a 100 billion ($128 billion) European loan facility to prop up its financial sector.
Spain’s largest international banks are not expected to need funding. However, many of the country’s regional lenders, which are struggling with assets that went toxic after a crash in Spain’s property market, are expected to need help.
Rating agency Moody’s Investor Services is also expected to issue a report on Friday that some analysts believe will reduce Spanish bonds to junk status.
Spanish stocks were down 0.9 percent on the country’s benchmark stock index early Friday afternoon. The interest rate, or yield, on the nation’s benchmark 10-year bond stood at 6 percent.
Friday’s audit results, expected in the evening after European markets close, will come a day after Spain outlined plans to cut spending and raise taxes. The government’s 2013 budget was drawn up to convince financial markets it is on track to reduce its bloated deficit. Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro said on Thursday, Spain’s draft budget for 2013 would cut overall spending by 40 billion ($51 billion).
Many analysts believe Thursday’s budget is part of preparations for another financial lifeline to help the country reduce its high borrowing costs.
Spain is at the center of the eurozone crisis, its 1.4 trillion ($1.8 trillion) economy being the fourth-largest among the 17 countries that use the euro. The country is struggling to prop up its shaky banking sector and support its heavily indebted regional governments. It has already introduced several packages of tax hikes, civil servant wage cuts and freezes in a bid to get out of the crisis.
To get help from the ECB, Spain must first ask for assistance from the rest of the eurozone. So far, the government has been reluctant to ask, for fear of the conditions the other countries will attach to its aid.
The country’s austerity cuts have been extremely painful for a nation with an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent, the highest in the eurozone. Protesters this week demonstrated outside Parliament and clashed with riot police who barricaded off the area twice this week.
Another big protest is scheduled for Saturday in Madrid, and union members will also demonstrate in Portugal over austerity—driven pay cuts and tax hikes.