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Economy in Brief

Under Pressure, Italian Confidence Rallies A Bit
by Robert Brusca  January 28, 2014

Italy's consumer confidence rebounded in January to 98 from a December low of 96.4. At this level the January reading for consumer confidence is still below its level of November 2013- not really much of a bounce. The level ranks in the bottom 21st percentile of its historic of queue of values and in the bottom 36% of its range of values.

The reading for the overall situation over the last 12 months improved from -131 in December to -125 in January. The January figure matches its November 2013 reading.

The overall situation expected for the next 12 months is improving for the second month in a row; it moved up to 9 in January from 8 in December and 4 in November.

Also looking ahead to the next 12 months, unemployment improved as its rating dropped to 11 from 14, where it has stood for two months in a row.

The forward-looking household budget improved relatively sharply to -18 from -24 but only bringing it back to its level of November 2013.

The household financial situation for the last 12 months and for the next 12 months both improved from their December levels. Both sit at the same level as November or slightly below that. For the last 12 months, the household financial situation is in the bottom 14% its historic queue. Over the next 12 months, the ranking of the metric is slightly better but still weak in the bottom 23% of its historic queue.

Household savings in the current period and for the period ahead, however, are still weak and below their November 2013 levels. Still, compared to other metrics, these readings are not as depressed as the current reading is in the top quarter of its historic queue while the future reading is in the 40th percentile of its historic queue.

The environment for major purchases deteriorated from December and since slightly below its November level and its historic queue it's in the 63rd percentile.

On balance, there is some improvement in overall Italian consumer confidence. The chart, however, makes it clear that confidence has been on a sagging trend and that the January rebound in and of itself is not particularly impressive. Economic figures for Europe in general continue to show some degree of rebound although we continue to get much evidence of irregularities. Italy certainly fits that mold. With consumer confidence sitting at just about the bottom one-fifth of its historic range, we would certainly expect to start seeing those numbers improve persistently if the economy were indeed on an improving trend. The fact that improvement continues to be so irregular, coming in fits and starts, with the overall reading still so low, is not an encouraging observation.

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