MILAN (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday the economy probably contracted at the end of last year for the second straight quarter, due mainly to external factors.
"I expect a further contraction," Conte said at a business conference in Milan, in reference to Q4 2018 gross domestic product data which is set to be released on Thursday by national statistics bureau ISTAT.
If Conte's prediction is correct, Italy will be in a "technical recession," defined by analysts as two consecutive quarters of falling GDP. The third quarter showed a fall of 0.1 percent from the previous three months.
Conte said the probable fourth quarter decline was caused by external factors such as a slowdown in China and Germany which hurt Italy's exports, and he remained confident of a pick-up in the second half of this year.
(Reporting by Lisa Di Giuseppe, writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer)