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Spanish banks sharply increased borrowing from the European Central Bank in December to 134.8 billion euros ($173.4 billion) from 106 billion euros in November, according to data released by the Bank of Spain on Friday. The figure is the highest since July 2010. While Spanish banks reduced borrowing via the ECB's main refinancing operations to 47.1 billion euros from 54.5 billion euros, the amount borrowed at longer-term refinancing operations jumped to 85.3 billion euros from 51.8 billion euros. That suggests Spanish banks were heavy users of the three-year loans offered by the ECB last month, analysts said. "A large chunk of this money will probably be used to meet near-term refinancing needs, but some of it is surely also being used to fund the Spanish sovereign, judging from the seemingly unrelenting rally in shorter-dated Spanish bonds," said Martin Van Vliet, economist at ING Bank in Brussels.

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