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>>>ANSA/ Household purchasing power, spending down in 2013

Italian deficit to GDP drops to 2.8%, says Istat

07 April, 18:13
>>>ANSA/ Household purchasing power, spending down in 2013 (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSA) - Rome, April 7 - The purchasing power of Italian households fell by 1.1% on average last year compared with 2012 while consumers purchased 1.3% less in goods and services, national statistical agency Istat said Monday. The figures reflect the lingering effects of the worst recession since the Second World War, and weak consumer confidence in the jobs market.

All of this, in turn, has damaged the economy, which shrank by 1.9% in 2013, Istat had previously reported.

An unemployment rate that peaked at 13% in February - the highest level is 37 years by some measures - has also weighed on consumer spending, an important driver of economic growth. Still, the economy began to show signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2013, which was reflected in Istat's reports that showed incomes rose by 0.3% in the final three months of last year.

But that was absorbed by a household savings rate that jumped by 9.3% overall in 2013, about 1.4% above 2012 rates.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi - whose cabinet is expected to approve a new economic plan on Tuesday, including forecasts for debt and deficits in the coming three years - has been trying to boost growth through stronger consumer confidence.

He has pledged such measures as a 10-billion-euro tax cut for lower-income Italians as well as new spending on social housing and schools, moves aimed at boosting growth as well as public confidence.

He has also pledged to hold the national deficit-to-GDP ratio below the 3% cap imposed by the European Commission this year.

According to a separate Istat report on Monday, Italy's deficit-to-GDP ratio in 2013 was 2.8% by some measures, and 0.1 percentage points below the 2012 average.

However, when certain financial transaction are included, the ratio reached 3%, still within the EC standards.

The issue is important because just one year ago, Italy finally emerged from an expensive excessive deficit procedure imposed by the EU in 2009.

Emerging from that procedure freed up eight billion euros for the Italian government.

This was because States which are under the procedure are obliged to divert public money into trying to reduce that ratio.

Italy has been under considerable pressure from the EC, which has warned that it would be monitoring Italy's macroeconomic imbalances and efforts to fix these.

Renzi has pledged to maintain a deficit ratio for 2014 within 3%.

Meanwhile, Istat has also announced that the 2013 average annual tax burden in Italy was 43.8%. The fourth quarter figure was 0.3 percentage points lower than the same period in 2012 and averaged 51.5%.

That quarterly rate was higher than the annual average because tax payments are often concentrated at year-end which pushes up the quarterly average for the final three months of the year, the agency said.