Is Italy showing the first signs of a turnaround?

Although the Italian economy continued to contract during the second quarter of 2013, it shrank less than analysts were expecting, with gross domestic product falling just 0.2% from the previous quarter. Industrial production has seen growing upward momentum, with Industry Week reporting that orders have risen three months in a row, including an impressive 3.2% jump in May compared with the previous month. Industrial orders from abroad have risen most sharply, up 9.4% in May when compared with the previous year and 4% month-to-month. The shift backs EU data from June, when the Eurozone survey on manufacturing purchasing manager sentiment signalled a more positive outlook for Italian manufacturing.

Italy’s financial sector is also looking up, with chief executive of the country’s largest bank – UniCredit – observing that Italy is seeing some positive signs. UniCredit’s large corporate clients have begun to look for acquisitions, foreign companies are investing in Italy exports are holding up and deposits are rising, all of which points to the troubled Italian economy beginning to turn around. Ignazio Visco, governor of the Bank of Italy, has also shown cautious optimism.

 Politically, the fledgling government is also making progress. In July Premier Enrico Letta’s coalition government won the confidence vote it needed in the Lower House to proceed with its ‘To Do’ decree – a raft of measures to be urgently put into action in order to help revive the economy.

 Consumer confidence is increasing as well, and at a faster rate than expected. The headline consumer confidence index from national statistics bureau ISTAT rose to 97.3 in July, well above the 96.0 median forecast in a Reuters survey of analysts. In particular, sentiment regarding the current economic conditions improved significantly.

Business confidence has mirrored consumer confidence, with the Economic Sentiment Indicator showing a rise of 2.9 points in optimism among Italian business from June to July – more than double the Eurozone average (of 1.2 points) and the highest level of the nations surveyed.

 These increasingly positive factors are combining to lead foreign investors to look very closely at Italy’s housing market. With the country on the brink of turning around its economic situation, many foreigners are looking to snap up holiday home bargains before Italy emerges from its recession and prices begin to rise again.

 After such a long recession, there are certainly some incredible bargains to be had in Italy at the moment. Casa Leopardi, a five bedroom/five bathroom luxury property set in a five acre estate is an excellent example. With its own private pool and grounds that include olive groves, vineyards, a lavender plantation and a truffle orchard, the fractional ownership holiday home is attracting considerable attention, with each fraction costing just £185,000 for five weeks’ exclusive use of the property per year.

Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs, founder of family-run Appassionata which has renovated the property, comments:  “Many people are viewing now as the perfect time to buy in Italy. With economic recovery on the horizon, house prices are sure to rise, so we are seeing a considerable surge in interest as foreigners look to buy a holiday home here before that happens.”