Italy's recession rumbled on in the second quarter of this year when its gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 0.7% with respect to the first three months of the year, Istat said on Tuesday.
The announcement by the national statistics agency showed that the downturn is now a year old as it was the fourth consecutive quarter of negative GDP. Istat added that, according to its preliminary estimates, Italy's GDP was 2.5% lower in the second quarter of this year than it was in the same period of 2011. That is the biggest fall since the third quarter of 2009, when GDP slid 3.5% compared to the period between July and September 2008. Istat also said that GDP fell by 1.6% in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
The data suggests Premier Mario Monti will find it hard to put Italy on course to balance the budget by 2014, as the recession is hitting consumer spending and tax revenues. "2012 and 2013 will be difficult years in which countries will have to launch structural economic reforms in order to be ready for the recovery," said Italian Education Minister Francesco Profumo.
"At this difficult time, Premier Mario Monti is playing a key role in giving our country and Europe credibility".
Istat also presented negative data for industrial output, which fell 1.4% in June compared to May. Industrial production was a whopping 8.2% lower in June than it was in the same month in 2011 in the 10th consecutive year-on-year fall.
The car industry is being hit particularly badly. Istat said auto output was 22.5% down in June compared to the same month in 2011. The national statistics agency said the sector's production levels for the first half of 2011 were 20.1% lower than in the same period last year. Italian auto giant Fiat's car sales in Europe dropped 16.7% in June taking its share of the European market to 6.4%, compared to 7.5% in June 2011. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said last month that the carmaker may have to close one of its plants in Italy if weak demand on the European auto market continues.