Friday, June 29, 2012

Italy's consumer hits a wall. The only boost to sentiment can come this Sunday.

The latest economic indicators coming out of Italy are just awful. The recession is getting far worse than most economists had predicted. That's part of the reason Monti has been pushing so hard to get the ESM and the ECB to buy Italy's debt. With such a deep recession engulfing the nation, the fiscal situation can't be good. Here are the latest economic figures.

As Italy's industries slow dramatically (see Industrial Production below) and unemployment hits 10%, the consumer begins to struggle.

Italy Industrial Production (YOY)

What's particularly troublesome is that Italy's inflation remains stubbornly high.

Italy CPI (YOY)

And high unemployment mixed with relatively high inflation has pushed Italy's misery index to new recent highs.

Italy Misery Index 

This trend has played havoc with Italy's consumer sentiment. The index of consumer confidence is now sharply below the lows of 2008.

Italy Consumer Confidence Index

This decline in confidence is now translating into a record drop in retail sales. Retail sales numbers tend to be volatile, but this last decline clearly stands out (below). And that coupled with higher taxes and increased austerity measures will do more damage to industrial production and employment ....

Italy Retail Sales YOY

Unfortunately at this stage there is nothing that Monti's government can do to give Italian consumers an immediate boost. The ECB who is clearly going to cut rates next week can also do little to ease tight credit conditions in Italy. There is only one thing that could (at least temporarily) boost the morale of Italian households. Italy needs to win the EURO 2012 soccer championship. So if you choose to watch the finals on Sunday, root for Italy - they need this victory even more than Spain.
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