Italian Bond Yields Jump After EU Projects Debt Limit Breach

Italy’s bond yields jumped and the euro dropped after the EU said the country’s deficit assumptions would breach its 3.0% limit by 2020.

In a report released as part of its overview of the European economy, the EU warned Rome’s growth estimates were too optimistic and that the deficit would widen to 2.9% next year, far above the government’s 2.4% target. The deficit would then rise above the bloc’s 3% limit in 2020.

The report marks the latest shot in the ongoing standoff between Brussels and Rome over Italy's expansionary budget. While Italy's government says it needs to support an economy that’s underperformed the euro area for years, the EU and investors are worried what it will do to the country’s mountain of debt, the second largest as a percentage of GDP in Europe after Greece.

In the report, the European Commission forecasts:

  • GDP growth of 1.2% next year, well below the government’s target of 1.5%
  • The decline in GDP has implications for the budget deficit, which is now seen widening to 2.9% next year and 3.1% the following year.
  • The government’s targeted 2.4% deficit for 2019 was flatly rejected by the commission.

The EU said the growth outlook is subject to “high uncertainty amid intensified downside risks,” including a further jump in government borrowing costs. Italy’s ongoing deficit standoff has already sent Italian bond yields to a four-year high.

Given the “fiscal deterioration” and risks to growth, the EU also warned Italy’s large debt-to-GDP ratio won’t decline through 2020, refuting Italy's optimistic predictions of a decline in debt/GDP.

“We need to get closer together, but we need to respect the rules,” Moscovici told reporters in Brussels. “We would like Italy to remain what it is -- a major country within the euro zone. There’s no future for Italy outside the euro zone.”

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