Italy Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Increased in March

Italian consumer confidence unexpectedly rose to an eight-month high in March as households grew upbeat amid Prime Minister Mario Monti’s bid to overhaul the euro area’s third-biggest economy.

The confidence index increased to 96.8, the highest since July of last year, from a revised 94.4 in February, national statistics office Istat said in Rome today. Economists forecast a reading of 93.5, according to the median of 12 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

Monti’s government approved a labor-market overhaul last week that expands unemployment benefits and seeks to increase the use of permanent-job contracts. Since taking office in November, the Cabinet has passed a 20 billion-euro ($26.5 billion) austerity package to eliminate the budget deficit next year as well as measures aimed at bolstering growth by deregulating services and cutting bureaucratic red tape.

Italy’s borrowing costs have declined since November as the European Central Bank’s unlimited lending to banks helped boost demand for sovereign debt. The yield on the nation’s 10-year benchmark bond was 4.98 percent at 8:45 a.m., compared with a euro-area high of 7.26 percent on Nov. 25.

Istat originally reported February’s consumer confidence reading at 94.2.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chiara Vasarri in Rome at cvasarri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerrold Colten at jcolten@bloomberg.net

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