Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi confirmed his nation would be moving toward a balanced-budget amendment on Friday, after rampant speculation that
the European Central Bank would intervene in bond markets and purchase Italian and Spanish debt in exchange for structural reforms.
Speaking at a press conference, Berlusconi, flanked by his embattled Finance Minister Giulio Termonti, announced he had reached an agreement with
European leaders to accelerate reforms. These measures, to be announced in Congress by Minister Tremonti, include speeding austerity plans by a year
in order to balance the budget by 2013.
Also, according to Trade the News, Berlusconi announced Italy would be moving toward a balance budget amendment, much like the one many Republican
policymakers argued for in the U.S. Berlusconi, who presumably has been in talks with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel, also
agreed to hold an early G7 Finance Minister’s conference, with heads of state possibly in attendance.
Speaking after his boss, Tremonti outlined part of the plan. Labor reform is critical, he explained, and austerity measures will be moved forward one
year, so that the focus of the plan will be during 2012 and 2013 rather than from 2013 to 2014. Tremonti, who confirmed he had been in talks with
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in recent days, noted they were just accelerating austerity, as opposed to bringing new plans to the table. (Read
Report: ECB Ready To Buy Italian, Spanish Bonds).
Italy has been under heavy fire recently, with stock markets tanking and bond yields spiking. The MIB benchmark equity index has fallen for at least
five consecutive days, marking a 2.69% decline on Friday. Banks have been particularly punished by investors, including big names such as Intesa San
Paolo, Banco Popolare, UniCredit, and large insurer Fondiaria Sai. (Read Italian Bank Stocks Plummet As $360K In A Shoe Box Threatens FinMin
Bond yields have skyrocketed, with Italy now being forced to pay higher rates than Spain. Yields on benchmark 10-year bonds hit 6.12%, practically
forcing Italy out of the international capital markets. Default protection on Italian sovereigns, as measured by CDS contracts, actually fell
marginally, down 0.6% to 388 basis points.