Italian shares plunge as economy slumps

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Bad news for PM Matteo Renzi as the economy hits the buffers. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
12:54 CEST+02:00
Italy stock market plunges 3.32 percent after the national statistics office said on Wednesday that the country slipped back into recession in the second quarter.

The Italian economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the second quarter, dragging the eurozone's third-biggest economy back into recession, Istat said.

The contraction, which follows on the heels of a decline in growth in the first quarter, will be a sharp blow for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government as the country struggles to pull out of the worst recession since the Second World War.

The official Istat data agency said in an initial estimate that the gross domestic product had shrunk by 0.3 percent from output in the same period last year, hitting the lowest second-quarter level for 14 years.

The result was worse than expected, with analysts having forecast between a 0.1 percent contraction to a 0.1 percent increase in growth. Italy "is struggling to pull out of the recession because it is a very deep one," Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore daily.

He insisted however that the country would not breach the European Union's three percent deficit ceiling "either in 2014 or 2015."

"There are no shortcuts to a return to growth. We have to remove the obstacles in our path through reforms," he said.

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Renzi, who came to power in February after ousting his predecessor for failing to do enough to revive growth in Italy, has made difficult and often contentious reforms the keystone of his leadership.

The deep, two-year recession had formally ended in the fourth quarter of last year with growth of 0.1 percent.

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