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Italian Industrial Output Fell in February as Recession Lingers

Italian industrial output fell more than expected in February, signalling the country may still be mired in its longest recession in two decades.

Production decreased 0.8 percent from January, when it rose a revised 1 percent, national statistics office Istat said in Rome today. Economists forecast a monthly decline in February of 0.5 percent, according to the median of 18 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Production in the euro region’s third-biggest economy declined 0.2 percent in the first quarter from the previous three months as export growth failed to offset the effect of falling domestic demand, employers lobby Confindustria forecast on March 28. Such a contraction may mean Italy’s recession, already the longest since 1993, extended to its seventh quarter.

On March 21 the Rome-based Treasury forecast the Italian economy will shrink 1.3 percent this year. That projection compares with a March 8 estimate by Fitch Ratings of a decline of 1.8 percent.

Fiat SpA, Italy’s biggest manufacturer, sees the domestic car market falling and “worsening day after day” amid lower consumer spending, Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said yesterday at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Turin.

In an effort to help the economy rebound, outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government approved last week a plan to make 40 billion euros ($52 billion) in arrears payments to private companies.

The monthly fall in industrial output was led by declines in production of transport vehicles, electrical equipment and other manufacturing, today’s report showed. Output fell an annual 3.8 percent on a workday-adjusted basis, Istat said.

Istat originally reported a 0.8 percent rise of production for January.

-- With assistance from Giovanni Salzano. Editor: Andrew Davis, Dan Liefgreen

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