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EC signs off on Italy's 2019 budget plan; bonds, stocks rally

Italian assets rallied Dec. 19 after the European Commission signed off on Italy's revised budget plan for 2019, dodging a potential disciplinary procedure from the bloc that could have imposed fines on the country.

The agreement came after the Italian government decided to cut its 2019 headline deficit target to 2.04% of GDP from 2.4% to prevent Brussels from launching an excessive deficit procedure. The commission had rejected Italy's original budget plan in October, saying it was in breach of EU fiscal rules.

Yields on 10-year Italian government bonds dropped nearly 18 basis points to close at 2.77%. The FTSE MIB stock index gained 1.59%, with shares in banks, which are exposed to government debt, posting gains.

Banco BPM SpA closed 2.69% higher and UniCredit SpA rose 2.67%, while Unione di Banche Italiane SpA and BPER Banca SpA gained a little over 2% each. Shares in Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and Mediobanca - Banca di Credito Finanziario SpA advanced nearly 2% each at the end of trading.

"Today's agreement is not ideal. But it allows us to avoid an excessive deficit procedure at this stage, provided that the measures are fully implemented," said Valdis Dombrovskis, European commissioner for the euro. The budget plan will need to be approved in the Italian parliament by the end of the year.