Protests by 'indignados' in Madrid last night ended with a police charge against those taking part (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). At about midnight yesterday evening, around a thousand indignados started a spontaneous march through the city centre, trying to reach, for the third consecutive day, the capital city's Plaza del Sol. However, once more, their way was blocked by police and as such, they changed directions and headed for the building of the Spanish ministry of the interior. Once there, the police intervened with a charge to prevent participants hanging a sign from the building saying "Iceland is an example". The intervention resulted in 20 people injured, of which seven were police officers, and three arrests. The 15-M movement said that there had been "no provocation on the part of the protestors" that justified the charge by the anti-riot police; a later improvised assembly that the indignados organised at Atocha decided to repeat demonstrations in the city centre today.
Investors reacted with disappointment to the European Central Bank's (ECB) non-purchase of Italian and Spanish debt yesterday (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). While there had been a high level of expectation that the ECB would buy debt issued from these countries to raise money to fight their respective debt problems, this spend did not materialise and it caused a new wave of panic across the markets. At mid-day, the president of the ECB, Jean Claude Trichet, gave the impression that he had decided to take the initiative on the matter. "I never said that (the programme for buying debt) had been deactivated," he said, adding that he wouldn't be surprised if there was some movement on the markets before the end of the press conference he was then giving. He was speaking following a meeting at the bank when it was decided to leave interest rates at 1.5 percent and restore a limited line of liquidity to banks for six months. However, in the end, the ECB bought debt from two countries that have already received rescue packages from the EU, Ireland and Portugal, but nothing from either Spain or Italy. It may be that the thinking behind the ECB's action was that by buying from Ireland and Portugal, it would have a knock-on effect on the risk premiums of other countries but by having made a smaller purchase than would have been necessary if buying debt of the other two countries; as the debt markets for Italy and Spain are much larger, it would require a bigger spend to have any effect. Unfortunately, the markets didn't appreciate such 'subtlety' and risk premiums rose once more for Spanish debt compared to German; at one point it reached 401 basic points and closed the day at 398. In addition, the Spanish Ibex-35 suffered a four percent loss over the day, its biggest fall in 14 months.
Fire crews of the Generalitat are continuing to battle a fire that started early this morning close to a chemical plant in Sant Adrià de Besos, on the easterly side of Barcelona (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The alarm was raised at 1.07am and the fire has already destroyed a warehouse of industrial material on the industrial estate of Polígono Sot in the town that neighbours Barcelona; a neighbouring building is now at risk. According to fire services sources that spoke to La Vanguardia, two crews worked throughout the night to bring the fire under control and also to make safe the damaged building, which needs to be properly dismantled using specialised machinery, a process that will start this morning. The Catalan emergency plan for dealing with chemical incidents (Plaseqcat) is still activated due to the proximity of the fire to a company that produces gas, Air Liquide Medicinal, which has exterior deposits of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon.