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Italy economy almost stagnated in third quarter, central bank estimates

Italy economy almost stagnated in third quarter, central bank estimates
A woman rides a bicycle as she passes in front of a Bank sign in downtown Rome, Italy, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi   -   Copyright  ALESSANDRO BIANCHI(Reuters)
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ROME (Reuters) – The Italian economy grew just 0.1 percent in the third quarter of this year from the previous three months as industrial output stagnated, the Bank of Italy estimated on Friday.

Recent data has pointed to slowing activity in the euro zone’s third largest economy, and this month the government revised down the official estimate for 2018 growth to 1.2 percent from a 1.5 percent projection made in April.

The faltering economy was one reason given by the ruling coalition for presenting an expansionary 2019 budget that has riled the European Commission, which says it will push up Italy’s mammoth public debt.

“The available cyclical indicators suggest that in the third quarter, gross domestic product growth slowed to about 0.1 percent compared with the previous quarter,” the Bank of Italy said in its quarterly economic bulletin.

Italy posted growth of 0.2 percent in the second quarter, and a 0.1 percent rate in the third would be the slowest since the second quarter of 2016.

Italy has been under financial market pressure since the new government of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League took office in June, and a sell-off of government bonds has accelerated in the last few days.

The Bank of Italy said foreign investors reduced their holdings of Italian securities by 42.8 billion euros in the first eight months of this year, disposing of 24.9 billion euros of government bonds and 12.4 billion euros of bank bonds.

Despite the financial market tensions, bank lending to firms and households is “rising moderately, supported by a small expansion in demand,” the bulletin said.

In the second quarter of this year, the ratio of new non-performing loans to outstanding loans fell to 1.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, the central bank said.

The ratio was 1.7 percent in the first quarter.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones)

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