February 9, 2018 / 9:08 AM / a year ago

Italy industry output jumps in December, easily beating forecasts

ROME (Reuters) - Italian industrial output was much stronger than expected in December, posting its sharpest monthly increase for almost two years, national statistics bureau ISTAT reported on Friday.

The 1.6 percent rise in output was the biggest jump since January 2016 and followed a 0.2 percent gain in November, revised up from a flat reading reported previously.

It was the third consecutive monthly rise and the seventh in the last eight months reported, suggesting

December’s increase doubled the median forecast of a 0.8 percent rise in a Reuters survey of 21 analysts.

The rise in output will be welcomed by the ruling Democratic Party, which has been slipping in opinion polls and needs good economic news ahead of parliamentary elections on March 4.

In the fourth quarter, output was up 0.8 percent from the previous three months, slowing compared with a 1.6 percent rise in the third quarter, national statistics bureau ISTAT reported.

Italian industrial output often shows a correlation with trends in gross domestic product (GDP), which rose 0.4 percent in the third quarter of last year, accelerating slightly from a 0.3 percent increase in the second.

Fourth quarter GDP data will be released by ISTAT on Feb. 14.

Industrial output fell by around a quarter between 2008 and 2014, and has recovered only a small part of that during the last three years.

Over the whole of 2017, industrial output adjusted for the number of days worked was up 3.0 percent compared with the year earlier, ISTAT said. That followed a 1.7 percent rise in 2016 and a 1.1 percent increase in 2015.

The government of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni forecasts that GDP grew 1.5 last year, which would be Italy’s strongest rate since 2010, but would still leave it in its customary position among the most sluggish economies in the euro zone.

In December, there were firm monthly increases in industrial output of consumer goods, intermediate goods and particularly investment goods, while output of energy products declined.

On a work-day adjusted year-on-year basis, output in December was up 4.9 percent, following a 2.3 percent rise in November which was marginally revised up from an originally reported 2.2 percent.

Gavin Jones

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