Fears are spreading that Italy may soon have to follow Greece, Ireland, and Portugal and seek a financial bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Doubts over the sustainability of Italy's explosive cocktail of high debt and low growth have led to violent routs that saw Italian stocks plunge and bond yields soar in recent days.
Italy is the seventh-largest economy in the world and the third-largest economy in the euro zone (the group of countries which use the euro as their common currency). It is also the third-most indebted country in the world after the United States and Japan. In its European context, Italy's mountain of debt is more than that of all the other so-called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) group of financially troubled countries combined.