Tags: Italy | Recession | Monti | Problems

Italy Recession Deepens, Compounding Monti's Problems

Tuesday, 07 August 2012 06:59 AM

Italy's economy contracted by 0.7 percent in the second quarter, data showed on Tuesday, compounding the difficulties for Mario Monti's technocrat government as it grapples with a debt crisis that threatens the whole eurozone.

The 0.7 percent fall in gross domestic product was the fourth consecutive drop for an economy mired in recession since the middle of last year, with the rate of contraction easing only marginally from a 0.8 percent decline in the first quarter.

The data was slightly weaker than expectations.

The median forecast in a Reuters survey of analysts pointed to a 0.6 percent fall.

Official statistics agency ISTAT reported that GDP was down 2.5 percent year-on-year after a fall of 1.4 percent in the first quarter, posting the steepest fall since the end of 2009.

Italy has been the eurozone's most sluggish economy for more than a decade, fueling investor concerns about its ability to bring down public debt of around 123 percent of output.

The recession weakens tax revenues and hits jobs and consumption in a vicious circle which makes it harder for Monti, who is aiming to cut the budget deficit to 0.1 percent of GDP in 2014, to meet his public finance goals.

Employers' lobby Confindustria forecasts that the economy will contract by 2.4 percent this year, twice as much as the government's official projection of -1.2 percent.

Monti passed austerity measured worth more than 20 billion euros at the end of last year to head off a mounting debt crisis but the package, made up largely of tax hikes, sapped consumer morale and deepened the recession.

Per capita consumer spending will fall by more in 2012 than at any time in Italy's post-war history, the country's main retail confederation said last week.

With Italian benchmark bond yields still stubbornly close to 6 percent, Monti has repeatedly warned his European partners that unless they show flexibility towards Italy on public finances then the country could soon be run by a eurosceptic government with little commitment to fiscal consolidation.

Monti has pledged to step down next spring, when new elections are due.

ISTAT gave no numerical breakdown of GDP components with its preliminary estimate, saying only that activity contracted in agriculture, industry and services.

It said so called "acquired growth" at the end of the first quarter stood at -1.9 percent.

This means that if GDP posts flat quarterly readings in the final two quarters of 2012, over the whole year it will be down 1.9 percent from the previous year.

© 2020 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, 07 August 2012 06:59 AM
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