Spain today enjoyed negative interest rates on its medium-term debt, the central bank said, a sign of strengthening market confidence three years after it came close to a bailout. 

The Treasury sold €885m in five-year bonds at an average rate of return of -0.286%, the bank said. 

It was the first time since Spain's crippling economic crisis that the country had secured a negative interest rate on its medium-term debt.

That indicated investors were so confident in Spain's financial prospects that they were willing effectively to pay to hold the bonds. 

Spain's economic output is recovering from five years of stop-start recession, though unemployment remains painfully high, close to 24% at the last count. 

In a sale of short-term debt on April 7, Spain had secured its first negative interest rate ever, on its six-month bills. 

The euro zone's leading economies Germany and France have also recently issued five-year bonds with negative interest rates - Germany in February and France in April. 

But the news was particularly striking in Spain, which in mid-2012 saw key interest rates soar to danger levels as investors took fright. That finance crisis stirred fears for the stability of the whole euro zone and raised pressure on Spain to seek a full bailout. 

Madrid resisted the full sovereign bailout but eventually got a €41 billion rescue package for its financial sector. 

Spain's conservative government says the improvement in the country's economic figures since 2013 is thanks to its tough money-saving measures, which sparked mass street protests. 

But it and other euro zone countries have also been boosted by the European Central Bank's measures to get cash flowing again in the euro zone. 

Rates on benchmark 10-year bonds of euro zone countries on the secondary debt markets rose generally today as investors sold off their holdings following several months of good returns, analysts said. 

Spain's 10-year bond was changing hands for a rate of 1.93%. That was slightly higher than yesterday's rate of 1.895% but still far lower than the danger levels reached at the height of its crisis in 2012.