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Italian Q1 GDP falls 0.4% q/q as services hit by coronavirus curbs | Reuters

Italy’s economy contracted by 0.4% in the first quarter from the previous three months, preliminary data showed on Friday, a slightly smaller decline than forecast after a slump in the fourth quarter.

On a year-on-year basis, first quarter gross domestic product in the euro zone’s third largest economy was down 1.4%, national statistics bureau ISTAT said.

A Reuters survey of 27 analysts had forecast a 0.5% quarterly fall, down 1.6% from the year earlier.

The Italian economy plunged in the first half of last year due to government lockdowns to try to rein in the coronavirus.

It rebounded in the third quarter when restrictions were relaxed before shrinking again at the end of the year as the epidemic gathered strength again, forcing new curbs on businesses and freedom of movement.

ISTAT revised its fourth quarter 2020 data to show a 1.8% quarter-on-quarter fall, previously reported as -1.9%. The year-on-year rate was confirmed at -6.6%.

Over the whole of 2020 GDP shrank by 8.9%, Italy’s steepest post-war recession.

Looking ahead, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government forecasts a rebound of 4.5% this year.

However, the outlook is highly uncertain and dependent on COVID-19 infection rates and restrictions on business and movement to try to control the disease.

The government eased curbs over much of the country from the start of this month in response to a gradual decline in new cases.

ISTAT said the first quarter saw an increase in domestic demand, while trade flows were a drag on overall GDP.

It gave no numerical breakdown of components with its preliminary estimate, but said industry and agriculture both showed growth, while services, the sector hardest hit by COVID-19 curbs, contracted.

Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the COVID pandemic, has recorded more than 120,000 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second highest death toll in Europe and the seventh highest in the world.

ISTAT gave the following details on Italian GDP in the last three quarters:

Q1 Q4 2020 Q3 2020 Q/Q (pct change) -0.4 -1.8r 15.8r Y/Y (pct change) -1.4 -6.6 -5.2 XX.X

r=revised

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