Pressure on Renzi as economy contracts

MILAN (AP) — Official figures show that Italy has slipped back into recession, piling pressure on Premier Matteo Renzi to push through reforms to kick-start Italy's economy.

The ISTAT national statistics agency estimated Wednesday that the Italian economy contracted by a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent in the second quarter. That was the second straight decline, the traditional measure for recession.

The decline was a surprise. Analyst surveys had forecast slight growth. Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Luca Mezzomo said the figures were "shocking" while Teneo Intelligence analyst Wolfango Piccoli said Renzi "lacks an original and coherent plan for the economy."

The figures proved a drag on the Milan Stock Exchange, which ended 2.7 percent lower. Renzi has been struggling to push through political reforms and is facing criticism over his proposals for economic recovery.

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