ROME (Bloomberg) — Italy’s economy stagnated in the three months through December, failing to rebound from its longest recession on record and increasing pressure on Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

 

Gross domestic product in the fourth quarter was unchanged from the previous quarter when it dropped 0.1 percent, national statistics institute Istat said in a preliminary report in Rome today. From a year earlier, GDP fell 0.3 percent.

 

Renzi, 40, took office a year ago with a promise to pull the country out of recession, which has lasted for more than three years. He has been hindered by unemployment consistently above 12.5 percent and falling consumer prices.

 

The euro region’s third-biggest economy may halt its slump in 2015 as both domestic and foreign demand rises, employers lobby Confindustria said this week. Its report was released after industrial output data showed a 0.4 percent increase in December that Confindustria said was probably followed by a further rise last month.

 

There might be “positive surprises” in store for the Italian economy as it benefits from lower oil prices and a cheaper euro that helps exports, Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said Feb. 9.

 

Italy’s GDP will expand 0.6 percent this year and 1.3 percent next, the European Commission forecast last week. The projected rise for 2015 is the second-lowest after Cyprus among the 19 members of the euro region.

 

“Italy is among the countries that are struggling hardest to make a start on the road to recovery,” Bank Italy’s Governor Ignazio Visco said in a Feb. 7 speech, adding that the economy may expand more than 0.5 percent this year. That’s above the 0.4 percent growth projected in a report published by the Rome-based central bank last month.

 

The industrial output data for December show Italy’s economic situation is improving, Visco told reporters this week in Istanbul where he attended a meeting of central bankers and Finance Ministers from the Group of 20 nations.

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