Italian Stocks On Precipice Of Bear Market As Tria Fails To Put Out Fire

Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria is an unenviable position.

He tried to convince Deputy PMs Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio to respect E.U. budget concerns when setting fiscal targets, but they didn’t listen.

So here we are, two weeks after Italy’s dynamic deputy duo decided on a 2.4% deficit target for 2019, and Italian assets are a mess. Financials are down some 33% since April, yields are surging and the nefarious “lo spread” has widened out beyond 300bps.

Less than 24 hours after a Monday rout in Italian assets, Tria appeared beforeparliament to chat with lawmakers about the country’s fiscal trajectory and explain what exactly is going on in markets.

Suffice to say it didn’t go well. I mean, that’s not entirely fair. It could have gone worse, but markets didn’t seem particularly enamored with what Tria had to offer.

For one thing, he said low growth in Italy doesn’t allow for a reduction of the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio despite the government’s desire to see that ratio drop “significantly.” He also said global trade frictions could dent Italy’s growth trajectory and he reiterated the notion that the Salvini and Di Maio are attempting to respond to the concerns of voters by pushing for a looser budget.

That latter bit is important. The political capital of Salvini and Di Maio waxes and wanes based on their willingness to push the issue when it comes to adopting expansionary fiscal policy to fulfill campaign promises. If they abandon their anti-establishment rhetoric in favor of a conciliatory tone in order to tamp down market angst, they will lose their legitimacy with voters because they rely almost entirely on the populist upsurge that’s swept through Western democracies over the last three years for their political survival. Without that, they don’t have anything.

Tria went on to reference the IMF’s decision to cut the outlook for global growth this year and next. “The outlook is not positive,” Tria said, adding that “the most updated forecasts for 2019 show a deceleration for advanced economies, especially for the major European countries.”

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Disclosure: None of what I write here is to be construed as advice to buy or sell any kind of asset. It is merely my personal and not my professional opinion. Any asset can go to zero.

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