Although eurozone ministers agreed Tuesday to boost the value of the rescue fund, they acknowledged that they might call on the International Monetary Fund for help to do so after Italy's borrowing costs soared to nearly 8%, a euro lifetime high.
Reuters reported that the 17 ministers from the eurozone agreed at their meeting to approve a detailed plan to guarantee the first 20-30% of new bond issues from countries wallowing in debt; they also said they would create co-investment funds designed to bring in investors who would purchase eurozone government bonds.
Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said that both plans would be operational by January, with the European Financial Stability Facility having about 250 billion euros available after a second bailout for Greece is funded. He added that the goal was for matching funds to come from the IMF to support the strengthened EFSF.
He was quoted in the report saying, "We also agreed to rapidly explore an increase of the resources of the IMF through bilateral loans, following the mandate from the G20 Cannes summit, so that the IMF could adequately match the new firepower of the EFSF and cooperate even more closely."
However, EFSF head Klaus Regling said that, in the face of reluctance from countries such as China to further sink funds into European debt, he could not estimate how much the beefed-up fund might amount to. He was quoted saying, "It is really not possible to give one number for leveraging because it is a process. We will not give out a hundred billion next month, we will need money as we go along."
Meanwhile, troubles mounted for Italy, which sold three-year bonds for a devastating 7.89% yield, up from late October's rate of 4.93%, and 10-year bonds for 7.56%, up from the same period's 6.06%. Olli Rehn, chief economic official of the European Commission, was already calling for new Prime Minister Mario Monti to institute further austerity measures beyond those already approved to be able to meet its promised balanced budget agreement in 2013.
Yet one more sign of continuing eurozone troubles was a report in the French business daily La Tribune that claimed Standard & Poor's would lower its outlook on France's triple-A rating to negative within 10 days. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called the report "nonsense."