ROME - Italy's economy shrank a more-than-expected 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, data said on Thursday, showing the euro zone's third-biggest economy remains mired in a deep recession ahead of a national vote.
A Reuters survey of 29 analysts had pointed to a fourth quarter gross domestic product decrease of 0.6 percent. Forecasts ranged from -0.1 to -0.7 percent.
The decline marks the sixth consecutive quarterly GDP fall, matching the length of a recession in 1992-93, and longer than the 2008-09 slump.
National statistics office ISTAT reported that GDP fell 2.7 percent year-on-year, compared to forecasts for a 2.4 percent decrease.
Over the whole of 2012, GDP was down 2.2 percent year-on-year on a work-day adjusted basis compared with a 0.6 percent increase of the same index in 2011, ISTAT said. There was one more working day in 2012 versus 2011, ISTAT said.
The Italian government's forecast was for GDP to decline an unadjusted 2.4 percent. Unadjusted GDP data for 2012 will be released on March 1.
Italy has been in recession since mid-2011, and it was deepened by austerity measures that outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti introduced to stave off a debt crisis.
With a parliamentary vote looming in less than two weeks time, all sides in a three-way race between Monti's centrist bloc, Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left coalition and Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right are pledging to cut taxes to try to kick start economic growth.
The national election is scheduled for February 24-25.
Earlier on Thursday, Italy's larger euro zone peers, Germany and France, also issued preliminary Q4 GDP data.
German GDP fell 0.6 percent compared with the previous quarter, compared with market expectations of a 0.5 percent decline. France's data showed a 0.3 percent fall, slightly worse than a forecast 0.2 percent drop.
At 1000 GMT, Eurostat will issue aggregate Q4 data for the euro zone as a whole.
ISTAT said so-called "acquired growth" at the end of the fourth quarter stood at -1.0 percent.
That means that if GDP posts no quarterly growth in each quarter of 2013, over the whole year it will drop 1.0 percent compared with the previous year.