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Europe shrugs at Berlusconi's political ambitions

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm •  Published: December 13, 2012

Former Premier Lamberto Dini, who ran a technical government in the 1990s, said he found Europe's response in recent days to a possible Berlusconi comeback "a bit undemocratic and excessive."

"It is his right to run," Dini said at a European Council event in Turin. "Let's see what his final decision is."

The latest polls taken after an announcement by Berlusconi that he would run showed a very modest improvement for his People of Liberty Party, to just 15 percent. And reaction within the party has been mixed, with several notable dissenters, including former Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

"This suggests that Berlusconi's announcement, while stopping the loss of support experienced over the last few months, failed to provide a meaningful boost," Unicredit analysts Chiara Corsa and Loredana Federico said in a note.

The bond market didn't seem particularly troubled by Berlusconi's back-and-forth. Italy easily raised €3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) in the sale of 3-year bonds Thursday, with interest rates, or yields, dropping to the lowest level in two years. Italy paid an interest rate of 2.5 percent, compared with 2.64 percent last month.

"No one really cares about Berlusconi," said Michael Hewson, a senior analyst at CMC Markets in London. "I would suggest he is white noise. ... The markets are fairly comfortable with the political situation in Italy, now that they have had time to assess after Monday."

Nicholas Spiro, a managing director of Spiro Sovereign strategy, says that the bond market is able to shrug off uncertainty over Italy's upcoming parliamentary elections thanks to the European Central Bank's bond-buying program. The ECB in September unveiled a plan to buy the bonds of struggling countries, lowering their borrowing rates, if they first agree to a European rescue program that includes conditions on their budget policies.

"Sentiment toward Italy is being heavily shaped by the ECB's new bond-buying program," he said. "Italian politics is playing second fiddle to the pledge of unlimited support from the ECB."