Italy slides back into recession

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MILAN (AP) — Italy's national statistics agency confirmed Wednesday that the eurozone's third-largest economy had slid into recession thanks to a drop in industrial activity and a stagnant service sector.

The Italian economy contracted a quarterly rate of 0.7 percent in the last three months of 2011, ISTAT said, marking the second straight quarterly decline, the official definition of a recession.

The Italian economy registered growth of 0.4 percent last year, compared with 1.4 percent a year earlier.

Italy is struggling to escape Europe's sovereign debt crisis with measures to cut spending and spur growth.

The preliminary figures will be confirmed with other data, including expenditures, to be released next month.

Analysts at UniCredit are forecasting a drag on exports, a contraction in consumption and a negative impact on production of a series of winter storms.

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