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The outlook for short-term world economic growth remains favourable; inter-national trade, which is reviving, looks set to again expand at a pace exceeding that of GDP. Risks to the global economy may arise from a  sharp increase in financial market volatility, currently at all-time lows, and heightened geopolitical tensions. Uncertainty about inflation in the United States, which was lower than expected in the summer months, has increased.

The euro-area economy is strengthening, while inflation is not.  In the euro area economic growth has intensified. Inflation, however, stayed at 1.5 per cent in September (1.1 per cent excluding the most volatile components).  Underlying pressures are being curbed by continued sluggish wage growth in many euro-area economies along with ample margins of underutilization of labour. The Governing Council of the ECB believes that a very substantial degree of monetary accommodation is still needed. It will decide on the calibration of its policy instruments beyond the end of the year, taking into account the financial conditions needed for a sustained return to inflation rates that are below, but close to, 2 per cent.

Our estimates indicate that the Italian economy is still expanding …  According to our estimates, based on positive develop-ments in several indicators (such as industrial pro-duction, goods transport and electricity consumption) and on information drawn from surveys, during the summer the Italian economy grew at a faster pace than in the second quarter, in line with the underlying trend that emerged at the end of last year. The expansion appears to be widespread, benefiting from the growth in value added in the service sector and in non-construction industry.

… driven by domestic demand.  The indicators suggest that the expansion in output continues to be buoyed by domestic demand. An increase in consumption in the third quarter, at a slightly faster pace than in the previous quarter, is indicated by improved consumer confidence and new vehicle registrations. Our surveys of firms, conducted in September, suggest that investment conditions are favourable and improving further and that spending on capital goods will pick up in the second half of 2017.

The current account surplus helps to reduce foreign debt.  The current account surplus reached 2.7 per cent of GDP over the twelve months ending in August and is helping to quickly reduce Italy’s net international debtor position. In the first eight months of the year foreign investors showed a renewed interest in Italian securities.

Employment continues to rise, but there is still ample underutilization of labour.  On the basis of the latest short-term economic in-dicators, the increase in employment recorded in the second quarter con-tinued through the summer. The number of persons employed almost regained pre-crisis levels, although the number of hours worked is still more than 5 per cent below what it was before the crisis, indicating continued ample labour market slack. In the first half of the year contractual and actual earnings in the non-farm private sector increased by a modest 0.5 and 0.7 per cent respectively, compared with the same period in 2016.

Consumer price inflation is expected to stay weak.  Inflation in Italy has risen from the minimum levels recorded in previous years, but is still low, reaching 1.3 per cent in September, with core inflation at 1.1 per cent. Our surveys indicate that households, firms and professional forecasters do not expect it to increase significantly over the next twelve months.

Lending to households and non-construction firms increases.  Lending increased to both households and industrial and service firms while that to firms in the construction sector, characterized by weak activity and higher risk, continued to contract. Overall, lending to the non-financial private sector rose by around 1 per cent on an annual basis in August. Surveys of banks and firms indicate that credit access conditions are accommodative.

Credit quality improves as the recovery gains strength.  The improved macro-economic conditions have had positive effects on the quality of Italian banks’ credit. As economic growth has strengthened, the non-performing loan rate has returned to a level in line with that preceding the financial crisis. At the same time, the share of non-performing loans to total loans fell further (to 8.2 per cent, net of loan loss provisions, in the second quarter), in part owing to the liquidation of two banks in June. The sales transactions being finalized will lead to another large reduction in the stock of non-performing loans in the coming months.

Italian bank share prices recovered.  Conditions on Italian finan-cial markets have improved, thanks to favourable signs of economic growth, good corporate earnings, and the marked easing of tensions in the banking sector. Over the last twelve months Italian banks’ share prices have gone up by 51 per cent, a greater increase than that recorded by the Italian stock market index and the shares of other European banks. In October, however, following the announcement by the ECB Supervisory Board of a consultation on a possible addendum to its guidance to banks on non-performing loans, Italian banks’ share prices weakened.

The Government confirms the reduction in net borrowing for this year …  In the Update of the 2017 Economic and Financial Document, the Government estimates general government net borrowing at 2.1 per cent of GDP for the year under way, in line with the objective indicated in April, and a decline in the debt-to-GDP ratio of 0.4 percentage points compared with 2016 (to 131.6 per cent), greater than that forecast in the spring. 

… and envisages a more gradual adjustment over the next three years.  In the Government’s programmes, the public accounts will be adjusted more slowly over the next three years than was forecast in April. The substantial balancing of the budget is expected to be achieved in 2020 and, in that same year, the debt-to-GDP ratio should fall to 123.9 per cent. Simulation exercises confirm that a reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio is possible in the medium term, based on realistic assumptions about the future growth of the Italian economy and financial conditions, and provided that primary surpluses are adequate.