ROME: Consumer confidence levels in Italy have fallen to the lowest point in over a decade, reflecting the considerable economic challenges facing the country.
Based on a regular survey of shoppers, Istat, the government statistics body, reported that the headline barometer of popular sentiment hit 89 points in April.
This constituted a decline from 96.3 points in March and 93.9 points in February, and also marked the worst figures on record since the collection of such data began in 1996.
"The drop is due to a technical correction after the rise seen in the previous months and to the fact that consumers are starting to become more aware of the negative effects of the austerity measures in the short term," Annalisa Piazza, a strategist at Newedge told Bloomberg. "None of the sub-indexes give encouraging signals."
More specifically, the assessment covering the economic climate stood at 71.2 points in the most recent research round, compared with the 85.4 points secured a month earlier.
Similarly, upon grading their personal financial circumstances, the average score provided by respondents slipped 5.8 points month on month to 94.3 points.
Elsewhere, perceptions of the overall household situation grew noticeably worse, sliding to -63 points from -54 points in March.
When it came to making major purchases, the aggregated total was -100 points in April, a decrease from the -84 points registered in March and matching the return logged during February.
Currently, the Italian economy, the fourth largest in Europe, is undergoing a series of tough financial austerity measures implemented by Mario Monti, the prime minister.
As part of this process, Monti's government is engaging in some €20bn worth of spending cuts and tax increases.
Pensions are also being reduced, while gas prices have reached a new high, meaning that the domestic economy is now in its fourth period of recession since 2001.
Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff