Italian industrial production rebounded in March even as the country’s fourth recession since 2001 weighs on demand for manufactured goods.
Output rose 0.5 percent from February, when it declined 0.7 percent, national statistics office Istat said in Rome today. Economists forecast a gain of 0.1 percent, according to the median of 18 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Production fell 5.8 percent from a year ago on a workday-adjusted basis.
Mario Monti, the unelected premier who took over after Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation in November, has pushed through 20 billion euros ($26 billion) in spending cuts and tax increases in a bid to eliminate the budget gap. The austerity measures tipped Italy into a recession in the fourth quarter and Monti was forced last month to push back the government’s goal to balance the budget by one year to 2014.
“Recovery is becoming more distant as domestic demand declines more than forecast and the exports lost momentum compared with few months ago,” employers’ lobby Confindustria said in an-emailed statement. Industrial output declined 0.6 percent in April, while gross domestic product dropped 1 percent in the first quarter and “may fall” even more in the three months through June, the group estimated.
Monti’s government lowered its forecasts for the euro- region’s third-biggest economy on April 18, saying it will contract 1.2 percent this year. The Rome-based Treasury forecast that the jobless rate, at an almost 12-year high of 9.8 percent, won’t start declining until 2013.
The March output “increase is relatively good news for the Italian manufacturing sector,” Annalisa Piazza, a fixed-income analyst at Newedge Strategy in London, said in an e-mailed statement.
Fiat SpA (F), Italy’s biggest manufacturer, posted a wider first-quarter loss in Europe as the automaker’s sales in the region plunged. Fiat, which shut down a factory in Sicily at the end of last year, froze new investment in Europe and postponed the introduction of new models, saying it doesn’t anticipate a recovery in demand until at least next year.
Italy risks an economic and social upheaval over rising unemployment, Development Minister Corrado Passera said at a conference in Rome today. Official data don’t fully reflect the nation’s “widespread” social problems, Passera said.
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