Italian industrial output rose a better than expected 1.0 percent in April, data showed on Thursday, pointing to a rise in manufacturing production throughout the eurozone despite debt market tensions.
Italy's output rise beat expectations for a 0.6 percent increase. Coupled with a 0.9 percent rise reported by Germany on Tuesday, it should ensure a rise in aggregate output in the 16-nation bloc when data is released on June 14, despite a surprise drop in France.
Eurozone industrial output rose by 1.3 percent in March and analysts said a recovery in the real economy still appears on track despite the problems in sovereign debt markets and stock market declines.
France surprised on the downside with a 0.3 percent decline in output reported earlier on Thursday. That compared with expectations for a 0.2 percent increase but was dragged down by a sharp fall in energy. Manufacturing rose 0.4 percent.
In Italy, the jump allays fears of a slowdown in recovery after a rise in gross domestic product in the first quarter.
It's a good start for the quarter and it confirms the indications we have had from surveys signalling that the manufacturing and industrial sectors are holding up well, thanks essentially to foreign demand, said Davide Stroppa of Unicredit.
April's year-on-year increase of 7.8 percent was the highest since December 2000, reflecting the unprecedented decline in activity during the recession of 2008 and 2009.
Employers' association Confindustria, which bases monthly output forecasts on surveys of its members, said the pick-up would accelerate in May to show a hefty 1.8 percent month-on-month increase.
The recovery remains solid, Confindustria said in a research note which forecast further output rises through the summer, even though at more modest rates.
However, Italian GDP details released on Thursday gave some cause for caution.
The economic expansion between January and March was revised down slightly to 0.4 percent from 0.5 percent and was strongly driven by exports, while domestic demand remained subdued.
Consumer spending around the euro zone is likely to stay weak, analysts say, pressured by high unemployment and austerity budgets necessary to rein in public finances.
-- additional reporting by Sophie Taylor in Paris, Valentina Za, Gabriella Bruschi and Gianluca Semeraro in Milan
(Editing by Jason Webb)