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No sign of fallout in Spain from Cyprus crisis, minister says

Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos listens to a question during a session at the senate in Madrid, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos listens to a question during a session at the senate in Madrid, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Juan Medina

By Paul Day

MADRID (Reuters) - The crisis in Cyprus has not prompted any flight of bank-deposits from Spain, the country's economy minister said in an interview on Sunday.

Luis de Guindos said the problems facing the island were exceptional and unique. "To generalize the Cypriot situation to other economies in the euro zone is completely out of place," he said in an interview with Spanish news agency Europa Press.

Cyprus's crisis has put the spotlight back on the euro zone's weaker members, such as Spain and Italy. Talks are scheduled on Sunday in Brussels to try to agree terms for a rescue for Cyprus's banking sector which has been crippled by exposure to Greece.

De Guindos also said in the interview that Spain had "absolutely" ruled out asking for international aid to help with its economic problems.

Spain had left the door open to potential aid from Europe after the country's financial troubles pushed its funding costs in the bond markets to unsustainable levels last summer.

But these have fallen since the European Central Bank stepped in with a promise of support. The yield on Spain's 10-year benchmark bond, for example, has fallen to below 5 percent from more than 7.5 percent since the ECB acted.

"Spain's accounts have greater credibility now," the minister said in the interview. He also forecast growth of almost 1 percent for Spain next year.

Spain's public deficit, one of the highest in the euro zone, and uncertain growth outlook after almost four years of economic contraction put the country at the center of the euro zone debt crisis last year.

The original 2011 deficit target was 6 percent of gross domestic product, but ended the year with a shortfall of almost 9 percent. The deficit in 2012 was 6.7 percent of GDP compared with a target of 6.3 percent.

De Guindos said he expected the Spanish economy to grow almost 1 percent in 2014 after returning to growth in the last quarter of this year.

The government expects the economy to contract by 0.5 percent this year overall, though is likely to revise this figure when it presents its economic plan to Brussels next month.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) sees Spain's economy growing half a percent next year, while forecasts from the private sector are less optimistic. Merrill Lynch predicts growth of just 0.2 percent.

De Guindos also said Spanish debt as a percentage of GDP would not top 100 percent after hitting 84 percent at end 2012.

On Spain's banks, de Guindos said the system would not need more aid after accepting a more than 40-billion-euro ($52 billion) package from Europe to rescue banks weighed down by hundreds of billions of euros in bad debt after the country's property market crash in 2008.

Spain's bank rescue fund (FROB) would present a strategic plan in the next few weeks for the three nationalized banks Bankia , NCG Banco and CatalunyaBanc, Guindos said.

The government has ruled out a merger of the three banks, but has said they would coordinate on certain business areas.

Official and banking sources say the government has hired an international consultant to create a plan to partially merge the three banks which it wants to operate under a single holding company.

(Reporting By Paul Day. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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