World Economy

Italy Consumer Confidence Beats Estimates

Italy Consumer Confidence Beats Estimates
Italy Consumer Confidence Beats Estimates

Italian consumer confidence rose slightly in September, beating economists’ estimates, amid optimism that Premier Matteo Renzi’s economic overhaul will take hold.

The confidence index increased to 102 from 101.9 in August, the Italian statistics office Istat said in Rome Saturday. The median estimate of seven economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a reading of 101.

Renzi’s government has passed tax cuts in an attempt to revive consumption and growth, while Italy slipped last quarter into a new recession. Italy’s youngest prime minister still maintains the support of 60 percent of those interviewed for a public opinion poll published Sept. 12 in la Repubblica. That compares with 64 percent in March, his first full month as premier, according to the Demos & Pi poll.

“Renzi is doing, I think, the right things overall, but his hands are very tied,” Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Rome Friday. “The problem lies with the structure of the eurozone, not the structure of the individual countries, and that’s what has to be fixed.”

Renzi took office on Feb. 22.

The Italian economy is unlikely to recover until Italy’s labor market improves. Unemployment in the euro region’s third-biggest economy was at 12.6 percent in July, close to the rate’s record high of 12.7 percent in November and more than double the pre-crisis level of 2007.

Istat surveyed 2,000 Italians in the first half of this month for the September consumer confidence report.

 Labor Market

Two major trade unions in Italy have called for nationwide strikes over changes to the labor market, prompting huge rallies in more than 50 cities across the country.

At least 40,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Rome, protesting against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reforms, reported the AFP news agency.

The unions intend the rallies to be a show of anger over measures Renzi has defended as necessary to stimulate the country’s moribund economy and remedy sickly public finances in line with eurozone rules.

“Today there has been an extraordinary response from workers opposed to the Renzi government’s policies,” Maurizio Landini, one of the best-known and most militant of Italy’s union leaders, told a rally in the northern city of Genoa.

“The piazzas [city squares] are full, not just here in Genoa but in all of Italy.”