Monti Resigns as Italian Prime Minister

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ROME Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti resigned Friday, ending a 13-month tenure and clearing the way for elections that will focus on his crisis-fighting austerity policies.

The appointed premier submitted his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano, according to a statement from the president's office. Napolitano asked Monti's Cabinet to remain to handle routine government administration. Monti stepped down after lawmakers passed a 2013 budget law. The president has suggested Feb. 24 as the date for elections.

Monti took over last year just as Italy risked becoming the next victim of Europe's debt turmoil under former Premier Silvio Berlusconi. While he's overseen a recovery in Italy's bonds and repaired its tattered standing abroad, his agenda left Italians with higher taxes, rising unemployment and a shrinking economy.

Monti, who has never sought elected office, may use a Sunday news conference to announce whether he'll sit out the election or heed the call of a group of centrist political parties who want him to run on a platform of continued reforms for the euro zone's third- largest economy.

The yield on 10-year bonds, which surged to 7.26 percent on Nov. 25 last year, past the level that had prompted Ireland, Greece and Portugal to seek bailouts, was 4.47 percent Friday. The gap with similar-maturity German bunds was 310 basis points, down from a 2011 high of 553 basis points, as the European Central Bank's bond- buying program buoyed Italian debt.

The yield on Italian 10-year bonds is little changed from before Monti's Dec. 8 announcement that he'd resign. Elections must be held by May. Monti decided to quit after Berlusconi's People of Liberty party withdrew its support for the government.

Most polls indicate the Democratic Party led by Pier Luigi Bersani, a former communist, will win the election with about 30 percent of the vote. A protest group led by comedian Beppe Grillo, who has suggested Italy leave the euro, trails with 20 percent before Berlusconi's PDL with between 15 and 20 percent. …