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Italy's GDP slumps unprecedented 12.4% in second quarter, but better than analysts had feared

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ROME, (Reuters) - Italy’s economy shrank 12.4% in the second quarter from the previous three months, preliminary data showed on Friday, as activity nosedived during the coronavirus pandemic, but the fall was less severe than many analysts had predicted.

The quarterly slump in gross domestic product (GDP) in the euro zone’s third largest economy was “unprecedented”, national statistics bureau ISTAT said.

On a year-on-year basis, second quarter GDP tumbled 17.3%, ISTAT said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted a 15.0% contraction quarter-on-quarter and an 18.7% drop year-on-year.

All segments of the economy suffered, ISTAT said, without giving details.

ISTAT also revised down its readings for the first three months of 2020 to give a quarterly drop of 5.4% and a 5.5% fall against the same period a year ago. These were previously given as 5.3% and 5.4% respectively.

Italy has been one of the countries hardest hit in Europe by Covid-19, registering more than 35,000 deaths since the contagion came to light in late February. Looking to halt the spread, the government introduced rigid restrictions on trade and travel on March 9, forcing most businesses to close.

The lockdown was only gradually eased from May 4 and much of the economy is still hurting.

Italy’s official forecast is for a full-year GDP contraction of 8% this year, although Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri has said this will probably have to be revised lower. The Bank of Italy has estimated negative growth of 9.5% and the European Commission has predicted the economy will contract 11.2% — the sharpest fall within the 27-nation bloc.

Spain reported earlier on Friday that its GDP contracted 18.5% in the second quarter from the previous three-month period, while in France, GDP dropped 13.8% and in Germany it fell 10.1%.

The Italian government has announced measures worth 75 billion euros ($89.18 billion) to help firms and families overcome the crisis and has said it will present an additional 25-billion-euro stimulus package in early August.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer

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