Italy awaits market reaction after political drama
Italy waited to see how markets would react Monday after a weekend of political drama in which Prime Minister Mario Monti announced his resignation and Silvio Berlusconi launched a comeback bid.
- Published: 10/12/2012 at 11:46 AM
- Newspaper section: news
Italy waited to see how markets would react Monday after a weekend of political drama in which Prime Minister Mario Monti, pictured December 6 in Rome, announced his resignation and Silvio Berlusconi launched a comeback bid
The developments have put the Monti government's reform agenda on hold and brought forward the election, with a vote now expected as early as February -- well before the government's mandate runs out at the end of April.
"We should probably expect a sell-off in Italian assets," said Erik Nielsen, the London-based chief economist for Italian banking giant UniCredit.
He also forecast increased "pressure" on debt markets, leading up to a medium-term bond auction on Thursday and "volatile weeks" ahead.
But Nielsen said he was "not seriously worried" about Italy's prospects since the two most likely outcomes for elections were either a coalition led by the centre-left Democratic Party or a new Monti government.
Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani has promised to keep the course set by Monti if he is elected, although he has said he would moderate some of the most controversial austerity measures and put more emphasis on growth and jobs.
Greater unease could come from Berlusconi's return to the fray and his announcement that he will wage a campaign against key aspects of Monti's agenda as well as "diktats" from leading European powers like Germany, analysts said.
Late Sunday Berlusconi stressed his dim view of the Monti government.
"There is not one single economic indicator which is positive. The experiment with a technocrat government is over -- with, alas, totally negative results," he said.
The Italian press spoke of a Berlusconi "coup".
A three-time prime minister, the 76-year-old Berlusconi is running for office for the sixth time in two decades in politics.
In the latest in a series of trials against him, he was convicted of tax fraud in October but his sentence to a year in prison and a five-year ban from holding public office have been suspended pending an appeal.
Berlusconi is also still a defendant in a trial for having sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute while he was prime minister and for abusing the powers of his office by having her released from police custody.
Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party has withdrawn its support for Monti's government, which it had previously backed as part of a grand coalition to prevent Italy from being swept into the eurozone debt crisis whirlwind.
A former high-flying European commissioner and economics professor, Monti took over in November 2011 after Berlusconi was forced out by a parliamentary revolt, a wave of panic on the financial markets and a series of sex scandals.
Supporters say Monti has managed to pull Italy back from the brink of bankruptcy by putting public finances in order and launching a number of long-delayed reforms to free up the economy and boost its growth prospects.
International investors have generally hailed his reforms, as well as his efforts to boost Italy's credibility on the European and world stage.
The differential or "spread" between Italian and benchmark German 10-year-sovereign bonds -- a key measure of investor sentiment -- has narrowed by half since he took over after hitting nearly unsustainable levels.
But some of Monti's measures -- like the introduction of a new property tax, budget cuts and a reform of pensions -- have proved deeply unpopular among ordinary Italians.
All the most recent polls show the main centre-left Democratic Party as the favourite to win the general election, although without an outright majority which would mean a coalition government.
Some polls show the People of Freedom party trailing in third place after Five Star Movement led by populist blogger Beppe Grillo, who has attracted younger voters with an anti-establishment, pro-environment message.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
- Position: News agency