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MILAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Advertising spending in Italy may recover in 2014 after hitting its lowest level since 1999 last year, but any growth is likely to be small as the country struggles to emerge from recession, research firm Nielsen said.
Italy's economy grew 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the first sign of improving business activity since the euro zone's third-largest economy entered its worst post-war recession in mid-2011.
According to estimates on Tuesday by Nielsen, the amount of money spent on advertising in Italy is expected to remain flat or grow slightly compared with 2013, when the market fell 12.3 percent to 6.4 billion euros ($8.8 billion).
"It will be a transition year," Alberto Dal Sasso, Nielsen's advertising information services business director, told a news conference.
The market will be hit by political uncertainty and a lack of economic growth but on the other hand it will be boosted by companies on the Milan stock exchange performing well and special events such as the Winter Olympics and the soccer World Cup, he said.
Last year, the amount of money spent on advertising in the three biggest market segments - food, automotive and telecoms - fell 14.7 percent, 19.3 percent and 10.3 percent respectively.
Last week Giorgio Brenna, Italy and western Europe head for Leo Burnett - an advertising agency owned by France's Publicis Groupe - gave a more optimistic forecast for the Italian market, predicting a rise of 2-3 percent in 2014.
$1 = 0.7298 euros Writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Pravin Char