Italian Output Unexpectedly Rose in January Amid Ongoing Slump

Italian industrial production unexpectedly rose in January as the euro region’s third-biggest economy is mired in a recession.

Output increased 0.8 percent from December, when it fell a revised 0.2 percent, national statistics office Istat said in Rome today. Economists forecast a monthly decline in January of 0.3 percent, according to the median of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Starting from January, the statistics institute changed the base year for the output index to 2010 from 2005.

On March 8 Fitch Ratings said that Italy will contract 1.8 percent this year, after shrinking 2.4 percent in 2012. It also cut the nation’s credit rating by one level as an inconclusive election on Feb. 24-25 produced political paralysis that threatens Italy’s ability to deal with the economic slump. While the policies of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti helped calm the region’s debt crisis by taming Italy’s budget deficit, the higher tax burden pushed the country deeper into its fourth recession since 2001.

Italy should take advantage of the results obtained in adjusting its public finances “to use them toward the real economy, for labor cost reduction and to increase productivity,” Enel SpA Chief Executive Officer Fulvio Conti said yesterday in an interview in Rome. The CEO of Italy’s biggest utility added that the country now needs a “stable government” in order to return to economic growth.

Car Sales

Fiat SpA brand car sales fell 16.8 percent last month as the country’s biggest manufacturer faced contracting domestic demand. Consumer spending declined 4.3 percent last year as the jobless rate reached the highest in more than two decades.

Still, exports rose 2.3 percent in 2012 as sales abroad of Italian goods and services showed some resilience.

The monthly rise in industrial output was led by increases in production of food and beverages, textile and clothes, today’s report showed. Output fell an annual 3.6 percent on a workday-adjusted basis, Istat said.

Istat originally reported a 0.2 percent rise of production for December.

-- With assistance from Giovanni Salzano and Alessandra Migliaccio in Rome. Editors: Andrew Davis, Jennifer Freedman, Jerrold Colten