Statistics office confirms Spain back in recession
MADRID (AP) -- Spain confirmed Monday it was officially back in recession as the country's economy shrank 0.3 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous three months.
This is Spain's second recession in three years. The contraction follows a similar decline in the final quarter of last year. Two consecutive quarters of economic contraction constitute a technical recession.
The National Statistics Institute said that compared to the first quarter of 2011, the economy shrank 0.4 percent. The Bank of Spain last week said the economy had shrunk 0.4 percent on the quarter. The statistics institute's findings are taken as the official figures.
Monday's release came days after Spain had its debt rating downgraded by Standard & Poor's by two notches from A to BBB+, citing a worsening budget deficit, worries over the banking system, and poor economic prospects.
The credit rating agency followed this up Monday by lowering long- and short-term ratings on 11 of Spain's top banks, including Banco Santander SA, the eurozone's largest bank by market capitalization.
Spain is struggling after the collapse in 2008 of a property bubble that had fueled nearly a decade of solid growth. It now has 24.4 percent unemployment and a deficit of 8.5 percent as of the end of 2011, which it must reduce to 3 percent in 2013.
Sunday saw tens of thousands people march throughout Spain to protest the conservative's government batch of emergency reforms and austerity measures.
But speaking the same day, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the government would continue to make reforms week by week, claiming the gravity of the situation required this.