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Business conditions in Italy’s manufacturing sector deteriorated for the fifth consecutive month in February, with sentiment at its lowest level since 2013.

The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, a survey of executives compiled by IHS Markit, dropped to 47.7 in February, slightly below January’s figure of 47.8 but marginally above analysts’ polled by Reuters expectations of 47.2. February’s figure was the fifth consecutive reading below 50 — which indicates a contraction — and the lowest level since May 2013.

“All this bodes ill for Italian manufacturing performance in Q1 and beyond, especially when looking at the slowdowns in key export markets such as the UK and Germany,” said Amritpal Virdee, Economist at IHS Markit.

The new order index also dropped to 46.1 from 46.5 in January, marking the seventh consecutive month of contraction and also the lowest level since 2013.

The data are “another indication that the recession started in Q3 last year is continuing in Q1,” said Nicola Nobile, economist at Oxford Economics.

Bright spots in new exports orders and employment did not change the overall bleak picture.

“We see the risks to our zero GDP growth forecast for this year as clearly skewed to the downside. Apart from domestic factors, related to possible developments in politics and policy, and their repercussions for financial markets, external factors could also further depress activity, such as the eurozone slowing more than anticipated or a ramp up in global protectionism.

“If any of these risks materialised it could tip the economy into outright contraction for 2019 as a whole,” said Mr Nobile.

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