[ROME] Morale among Italian businesses and consumers both rose sharply in March, raising the prospects of recovery for the country's stagnant economy, data showed on Monday.
National statistics institute ISTAT's manufacturing confidence index increased to 103.7 in March from a steeply upwardly revised 100.5 in February.
That was the highest level since June 2011, just before the country fell into a three year recession, and well above the median forecast of 99.8 in a Reuters survey of 14 analysts.
ISTAT re-based its business and consumer confidence indexes in March and made methodological changes to the business surveys, leading to steep, mainly upward revisions to previous months' data.
ISTAT's composite business morale index, combining surveys of the manufacturing, retail, construction and services sectors, rose for the fourth month running in March to 103.0 from 97.5, reaching the highest level since July 2008.
Consumer confidence also rose, to 110.9, this time from a downwardly revised 107.7 in February (originally reported as 110.9), matching the median forecast in Reuters survey and reaching its highest level since May 2002.
The across-the-board rise in confidence in March will encourage Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is trying to revive an economy which has shrunk for the last three years.