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Italy business and consumer morale rise in September to highest since start of coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: People walk in a street market in Rome, Italy, August 11, 2016. Picture taken August 11, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi

(Reuters) - ROME, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Morale among Italian businesses and consumers rose in September to the highest level since the start of the country’s coronavirus outbreak in February, data showed on Friday.

National statistics institute ISTAT’s manufacturing confidence index climbed to 92.1 in September from 87.1 in August, the fourth consecutive increase.

The data was well above a median forecast of 87.5 in a Reuters survey of 10 analysts.

ISTAT’s composite business morale index, combining surveys of the manufacturing, retail, construction and services sectors, came in at 91.1 in September, compared with August’s reading of 81.4.

Consumer confidence increased this month to 103.4 from 101.0 in August, beating a median forecast of 100.8 in Reuters’ poll.

All three indexes posted their highest level since February. On the 21st of that month Italy recorded its first cases of COVID-19.

Since then more than 35,000 people have died of the disease in the country, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain.

The euro zone’s third largest economy shrank an unprecedented 12.8% in the second quarter from the previous three months, as activity nosedived during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rome’s official forecast is for a full-year drop in gross domestic product of 8% this year, but government sources have told Reuters it will revise this to -9% when it issues new economic targets later this month.

Reporting by Gavin Jones

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