World Bulletin / News Desk
Italy's national statistics body ISTAT threatened on Thursday to cease issuing data on the economy, saying it had been crippled by government spending cuts aimed at reducing national debt and righting public finances.
The euro zone's third biggest economy, whose statistics are closely watched as the country's huge state debts put it at the center of the bloc's financial crisis, would face stiff European Union fines if the flow of data is cut off, ISTAT President Enrico Giovannini was quoted as saying.
"Spending cuts are putting ISTAT at risk. From January onwards we will not issue any statistics," Giovannini told daily La Repubblica in an interview.
Prime Minister Mario Monti's government has unveiled plans to cut public spending by 4.4 billion euros in 2012, 10.6 billion euros in 2013 and over 11 billion euros in 2014, to be mainly achieved through a planned 10 percent reduction of public administration staff.
Planned government cuts would reduce financing to ISTAT to 150-160 million euros by 2013 from 176 million euros currently, Giovannini said. He said that was half what is set aside for national statistics in France and one-third of what available in Nordic countries.
Giovannini called the planned cuts "unsustainable".
He said ISTAT produces 300 sets of data a year, up 25 percent from two years ago and 2,000 smaller reports.
Seventy percent of ISTAT's output is aimed at meeting obligations with the EU.
"We will not issue data on inflation, deficit, household income, job data. That will trigger very high EU fines for our country for every day of delay," Giovannini said. "I do not think the government and the parliament will want to get to that point."
The government could finetune its planned spending cuts when it discusses the new budget law in the autumn.
Some ISTAT data releases have been disrupted or delayed in recent weeks by a group of staff members protesting the fact that a promotion they won two years ago has not yet been recognized. Many ISTAT employees are on temporary contracts and would be easier to lay off than permanent staff.
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.