Rome, March 27 (IANS/AKI) Italy’s consumer confidence rose in March, defying tax hikes and other reforms that are expected to cut into paychecks in the euro zone’s third-biggest economy.
The confidence measure advanced to 96.8 from February’s revised 94.4, national statistics agency Istat announced Monday. The latest reading was the highest since July.
The value of the Italy’s economy during the fourth quarter shrank by 0.7 percent from the prior three months when it contracted 0.2 percent, national statistics agency Istat said in a statement of preliminary numbers. Economists define an recession as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.
Prime Minister Mario Monti – leading a group of technocrats, or non-political experts – took over the government in November when a spiralling debt crisis and scandals derailed Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative ruling coalition and threatened the very future of the euro currency.
Monti has since pushed through a series of painful reforms that include tax hikes and make Italians work longer before qualifying for a retirement pension. Finance police have also made very visible raids against tax cheats.