Rome, February 25 - Italy's main financial markets jumped by more than 3% in late-day trading Monday after early exit poll results suggested the center-left had taken a strong lead. Financial markets had been on edge leading up to Italy's general election held Sunday and Monday, amid investor fears of an unstable government. However, an hour before markets closed, the FTSE Mib index had gained 3.8% on news that a solid majority government could be possible. A raft of banking stocks were suspended for excessive rises. Pier Luigi Bersani's center left showed a significant lead in early exit polls for both houses of government, capturing 34.5% of the vote in a Tecne' poll for Sky Italia. That could mean the center-left coalition has won as many as 340 seats to give it a large majority in the Lower House, said the exit poll taken shortly after voting booths closed Monday afternoon. The center right won 140 seats, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) won 91, and the center won 46, a Tecné poll said. Tecne' also said the center left had 37% of votes for the Senate, with the center right taking 31%, M5S taking 16.5% and the coalition of outgoing Premier Mario Monti winning 9%. Pundits said the results of the Senate vote could depend on who won Lombardy, where the race was too close to call.
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di Angelo Biscardi