Banks are now the largest estate agents in Spain, with the 10 largest banks and savings banks selling more than 30,000 properties last year (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Amongst the 10 financial groups are Catalan entities La Caixa, Catalunya Caixa and Unnim as well as Spanish organisations such as Banco Popular, Santander and BBVA. Other entities, including CAM, Ibercaja and Unicaja have not revealed details of the number of property sales they carried out in 2010, which means that the overall number will actually be higher than the 31,164 transactions known about. The majority of the properties sold by these financial institutions are part of their portfolios, which they have taken over after construction companies have found themselves unable to repay loans taken out to build new flats and houses; a small part of the properties come from estate agents with which the banks have re-financing agreements, while the minority of them are from private home-owners who weren't able to pay their mortgage. In total, 222,655 new properties were sold last year, according to the Spanish Statistics Institute, meaning that the banks' contribution to these was 14 percent.
An opinion poll published today in El Periodico regarding this weekend's municipal elections suggests that in the fight to run Barcelona council, Convergència i Unió (CiU) will achieve a small, two-seat victory over the incumbent Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Carried out for the newspaper by the Gabinet d'Estudis Socials i Opinió Públic (GESOP), the poll found that CiU could win 14 seats on Sunday's election with 29 percent of the vote (in 2007, they won 12 seats and 25.3 percent of votes), while the Socialists (PSC) would achieve 12 seats and 23.5 percent of votes (last time, they had 14 seats and 29.7 percent of votes). Such a close-run result means that there is all to play for in this second and final week of voting. The survey found that the Partido Popular would be the third party in Barcelona with seven or eight council seats and 15.9 percent of votes cast (compared to 7 and 15.5 percent in 2007); Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds would come in fourth, taking four or five seats (they currently have four seats) and Esquerra Republicana Catalunya and their associates will have two or three councillors (they have four at the moment).
The Spanish economic minister, Elena Salgado, has said that in Spain "there is no need to take more steps" to cut public spending (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Salgado, speaking to French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published today, showed her confidence that the 2011 objectives for the reduction in the Spanish budget deficit would be met, and also said that she believed that the forecasts for growth in Spain this year by "other organisations" would move closer to those established by the government, as happened last year. The Spanish administration believes that the economy will grow by 1.3 percent in 2011, while the International Monetary Fund has said that the gross domestic product of Spain will increase by 0.8 percent this year. Talking about unemployment, Salgado said that the priority was the reform of collective negotiations; she also said that the government wanted to reduce the number of hours worked rather than the number of jobs, "as in Germany".