ROME Feb 10 Italian industrial output
rose unexpectedly in December, data showed on Friday,
contrasting with falls in German and French output and giving
some analysts hope that the pace of a new recession for Italy
may ease in the first quarter.
National statistics office ISTAT said Italy's output rose
1.4 percent from the previous month, way above a forecast 0.5
percent fall in a Reuters' poll of analysts and accelerating
from a 0.3 percent rise in November.
"This is a very positive figure and a little surprising,"
said Unicredit analyst Chiara Corsa.
She said the strong output figure reduced the downside risk
on her forecast for gross domestic product (GDP) to have fallen
by about 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, and
underpinned her view that the pace of recession may soften in
the first quarter of 2012.
Other analysts said the output rise in December appeared to
be a temporary recovery.
"The index went down quite a bit, so this is a correction of
the previous weakness," said Fabio Fois from Barclays Capital.
He said he still expected the economy to weaken throughout
2012 as structural reforms being implemented by the new
government of Mario Monti, including deregulation, would have an
initial dampening effect on growth.
The Bank of Italy said on Thursday that the economy would
shrink this year by around 1.2 percent if the recent fall in
borrowing costs is maintained.
The government has sought to implement a wide-ranging
austerity program to convince investors Italy can service its
debt pile, and is also working on measures to stimulate economic
growth, including deregulation of professions and labour reform.
Robust increases in production of consumer and investment
goods helped boost December's figure.
The data follows Italian purchasing managers' indexes which
showed the manufacturing and service sectors contracted at a
slightly slower rate in January.
The jump in Italian output contrasted with a 2.9 percent
drop in industrial output in Germany, the euro zone's largest
economy, and a 1.4 percent decline in French output.
Germany, France and Italy make up at least two-thirds of the
euro zone's economic output.
Over the whole of 2011, Italian output was flat compared to
2010, ISTAT said.
On a work-day adjusted year-on-year basis, output in
December declined 1.7 percent, compared to a 4.1 percent fall in
(Reporting By Catherine Hornby)