June 18, 2019

Italian economy enters technical recession

02 February 2019, 11:18 | Hattie Nash

Italian economy enters technical recession

Giuseppe Conte

Just last week, Conte said in a Bloomberg interview in Davos, Switzerland that he expected GDP to climb as much as 1.5 percent this year and ruled out any need for a budget adjustment to meet targets.

The data presents a quandary for the European Central Bank, which ended its bond-buying stimulus programme late a year ago and risks running low on firepower as the economy slows.

In a separate report, ISTAT said Italy's employment rate in December grew by 0.1 percentage point to 58.8 percent on a monthly basis, a record since April 2008, before financial crisis hit the eurozone's third largest economy. It's a development likely to renew concerns about the outlook for the 19-country eurozone economy.

Experts have pointed at Italy's decline as one of the reasons why the wider eurozone experienced an economic slowdown a year ago. As a result, unemployment in the eurozone is about double the U.S.'s 4 percent at 7.9 percent.

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Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, also published its quarterly GDP data on Thursday, confirming comments from European Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi last month that growth was weaker than expected. The government wants to ramp up spending to get the Italian economy going by providing more social security payments and rolling back a pension reform.

"This confirms what most observers were expecting, but this announcement means there is no doubt", Giuseppe Ciccarone, a professor of political economy at Rome's La Sapienza University, told Xinhua.

"What we care about is to concentrate on our relaunch, on the relaunch of our economy which will take place for sure in 2019 since now the economic measures we put in our budget law will start having an effect." said Conte.

Conte, who fronts a populist coalition government that has vowed to implement a series of costly policies despite a huge national debt, said "we have no reason to lose confidence".

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Germany, Europe's biggest economy, suffered an unexpected contraction in the third quarter largely because of changes in emissions standards that dented auto sales.

The Italian economy suffered a harsh recession in 2012-13 and has enjoyed only slow growth since then.

Separate economic indicators point to further weakness at the start of 2019, and most economists expect a hard period ahead if the main causes of uncertainty aren't addressed soon. "Uncertainty about economic developments in China, the unresolved trade conflict between the USA and China and Brexit continue to weigh on the economic outlook for 2019".

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