The European Central Bank cautioned today against speculation over the outcome of its stress tests after a media report said at least 11 banks had failed the landmark financial health checks.

Austria's Erste Group rejected the report from Spanish newswire Efe.

Efe had said that Erste, along with banks from Italy, Belgium, Cyprus, Portugal and Greece, had failed the ECB review based on preliminary data. 

The news agency gave no details of the size of the capital holes at the banks. 

The agency did not mention Permanent TSB as speculation continues that it may fail the test. 

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said recently that the country's two big banks, AIB and Bank of Ireland, were "very secure in capital terms" - in other words they should pass the stress test. 

However, he said if Permanent TSB requires extra capital, it is "strong enough to get the small amounts of capital they require in the markets, so we don't see any risk to taxpayers." 

The ECB, which will publish the test outcomes for 130 banks on Sunday, said final results had not yet been sent to the lenders involved, and it could not comment on individual institutions. 

"Any inferences drawn as to the final outcome of the exercise would be highly speculative until the results are final on October 26," an ECB spokesman said. 

The European Banking Authority, the EU watchdog coordinating the Europe-wide stress test, said the results would not be final until they are endorsed on Sunday just prior to publication. It had no comment on individual lenders. 

Erste told Reuters it had no reason to believe it would fail the test. Banks have already had some feedback on the outcome of the tests through 'supervisory dialogues' with the ECB. They get the results on Thursday, three days ahead of the public announcement. 

The ECB becomes supervisor of the euro zone's banks on November 4. 

Sources told Reuters that German public sector lender HSH Nordbank - which was not named in the Efe report - was set to pass the health checks. HSH was seen as the German lender most likely to fall short of requirements. 

Other than Erste, the banks listed by Efe were Italy's Banco Popolare, Monte dei Paschi and Banca Popolare di Milano; Greece's Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank; Portugal's Millennium BCP and Belgium's Dexia. 

The agency also said a second, unnamed Austrian bank and a Cypriot bank were set to fail. 

"They are wrong," a senior Cypriot official told Reuters. He added that one Cypriot bank had already pre-emptively raised capital, and another had the full backing of shareholders to raise money if it needs to. 

"That's hardly a failure," he said. 

One Austrian bank that is expected to fail is the country's part-nationalised lender Volksbanken, which has already said it plans to wind itself down to avoid a looming capital crunch it was struggling to plug. 

All three Italian banks declined to comment, though Banca Popolare di Milano's CEO said last week that the feedback he had got from the ECB in the one-to-one meeting was reassuring. 

Alpha and Millennium BCP also declined to comment. 

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said he was confident Spanish lenders would do well in the health checks, pointing to benefits from financial reforms after a property sector collapse left many banks in need of state aid.