MILAN – The year 2024 begins with the motto “new risks” for the economy. This is highlighted by the Confindustria study center in its monthly analysis Congiuntura Flash. Risks – explains the CSC – “due to the sharp decrease in transits in the Suez Canal due to the attacks of the Yemeni Houti group. The prices of gas and oil do this.” So far they have not been affected, but they remain high.” “At the end of 2023, Italian GDP may have performed better than expected,” the services and construction sectors have “started up again,” but ” the industry remains weak.” As for inflation, it is “lowest” in Italy, but “not yet” in Europe. Interest rates could therefore remain high for a few more months.”

Bank of Italy: Growth of +0.6% in 2024. Sharper slowdown in inflation

The Red Sea Knot

Transit difficulties in the Suez Canal make the prospects for Italian exports in 2024 “uncertain,” according to industrialists. “The economic impact of the collapse of sea transport through the Suez Canal depends largely on its duration: the longer it lasts.” “The greater will be the negative impact on Italian and global foreign trade,” underline the Confindustria studies with an in-depth analysis of the Export scenarios.

“By mid-January, shipping traffic in the Red Sea had more than halved and the costs of container transport from Asia to Europe rose by 92%.” Sea routes are “crucial,” warn the economists at Via dell’Astronomia: “90% of world trade volume take place by sea” and before the crisis “12% went via the Suez Canal”. For Italy, “54% of trade occurs by sea, of which 40% goes through Suez; “In particular, more than 90% of Italian trade flows by sea with the main countries east of the Red Sea (in Asia and part of the Middle East)”. Potentially at risk are: trade in oil and gas (from Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq; some of Saudi Arabia’s oil is instead shipped north of Yemen), trade in electronic goods and electrical appliances (over half of extra-EU imports come from… China), those of leather products (almost a third come from China), those of machinery (especially for the most important Asian countries)”