UPDATE 1-Screws tighten on Slovenia as budget votes shelved
* Parliament shelves votes on balanced budget, bad bank
* Premier says fiscal situation very serious
* Bailout speculation dogs country's government
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, July 20 (Reuters) - Slovenia's parliament postponed voting on reforms the government says are crucial for securing its financial stability, taking the country one step closer to seeking an international bailout.
Lawmakers had been due to vote on Friday on one rule to enforce balanced budgets in coming years, and on another on setting up a state holding firm to take over bad loans in the state banking sector.
But both votes were called off late on Thursday, leaving the country's finances in a "very serious" state, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said.
Rising levels of soured loans in the banking system and a bad run of a data that has deepened the country's recession have fuelled speculation that export-dependent Slovenia may soon become the sixth euro zone state to seek international aid.
Policymakers have repeatedly denied the speculation, with Finance Minister Janez Sustersic telling Reuters earlier this month he did not anticipate needing a bailout over the next year, and most probably not thereafter.
Slovenia's sovereign bond yields have spiked in recent months and the rising returns demanded by investors forced the country to postpone a planned 1.5 billion euro bond issue in April.
The yield on Slovenia's 11-year sovereign bond reached 5.5 percent on Friday, according to Reuters data, above most of its euro zone peers but still well below equivalent debt yields for Spain, the other single currency state flirting with a full-blown bailout.
Jansa said the country still had time to regain the confidence of financial markets. "If we do the right steps in the autumn we will be able to get new loans then," he told national TV Slovenia.
But analysts have their doubts.
"Slovenia's market position is weak at the moment and bailout speculations sparked two weeks ago could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Otilia Simkova, an analyst at Eurasia Group, said.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE?
The parliamentary vote on the 'golden' fiscal rule was shelved as it would have failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to enshrine it in the constitution, as planned by the government.
Prime minister Jansa had said he might link the vote on balanced budget, due to be enforced across the euro zone by 2015, to a vote of confidence in his government.
Opposition party Positive Slovenia said more time was needed to detail the law and threatened to enforce a referendum on it if it was passed this month.
The centre-right government, which took over in February after a snap election, hopes to issue a bond of at least 1 billion euros this year to cover a budget deficit that is expected to fall to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 6.4 percent in 2011.
It says enforcement of the fiscal rule would send a positive signal to the markets, and analysts said the postponement vote could further dent investor confidence.
"The golden rule does not introduce any further (fiscal) consolidation measures beyond the strong austerity package adopted in May," Simkova said.
"Nevertheless, given the importance Jansa attached to the vote... negative interpretations of vote postponement are possible."
In May, the government adopted measures cutting public sector wages and social benefits, aimed at bringing the budget deficit to below the EU threshold of 3 percent of GDP in 2013.
Slovenia was the fastest growing euro zone state in 2007 but has been badly hit by the global crisis and the worsening debt turmoil in the euro zone due to its dependency on exports.
After a mild recovery in 2010, the economy contracted by 0.2 percent in 2011 and the government expects a further contraction of 0.9 percent this year due to lower export demand and a fall in domestic spending amid the budget cuts.
Slovenia's five-year credit default swaps - a key measure of how likely the country is to default on its debt - have almost doubled over the past year.
At 0950 GMT on Friday they traded at 412.7 basis points, unchanged from Thursday's close, according to Markit data.
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