Brussels: Production at factories in the eurozone dropped in July for a second consecutive month and by more than expected, in what could herald a possible slowdown of the bloc’s economy in the third quarter, official data released on Wednesday showed.

The fall was mostly caused by bad data from Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, and Italy, which has had a stormy summer with market jitters over large spending plans of its new eurosceptic government.

The European Union (EU) statistics agency Eurostat said industry output in the 19-country currency bloc fell in July by 0.8 per cent during the month and by 0.1 per cent year-on-year.

The numbers are a negative surprise after economists polled by Reuters had forecast a smaller 0.5 per cent drop month-on-month and a 1.0 per cent rise from a year earlier.

Eurostat also revised its figures for June, saying industrial production fell 0.8 per cent on the month, a bigger fall than the previous estimate of 0.7 per cent.

The year-on-year data for June was also revised down to a 2.3 per cent rise from 2.5 per cent.

Both Germany and Italy — the third biggest economy in the bloc — recorded a 1.8 per cent monthly drop in their July industrial production, which was only partly offset by a 0.7 per cent increase in the output of France, the bloc’s second largest country.

“This should prove to be more food for thought for Italian political actors currently negotiating the content of the next budget,” ING analyst Paolo Pizzoli said in a note.

Market tensions over Italy have eased in the last 10 days, after the government said it was committed to reducing its large debt and keeping the deficit under control in its budget for next year, which will be finalised by mid-October.

Growth impact?

Although output data tend to be very volatile, industry’s marked slowdown in the first month of the third quarter could be a sign of weaker economic growth.

Eurostat will release its preliminary flash estimate of eurozone’s growth in the third quarter on October 30.

The data were disappointing, said Jack Allen at research firm Capital Economics. But he added that things were not as bad as the figures showed, because the drop followed an unusually strong growth in production in the second quarter.

The monthly output fall in July was mostly caused by a 1.9 per cent drop in the production of durable consumer goods, such as cars or fridges, which could show managers’ prediction of lower consumer appetite for larger spending.

The output of non-durable consumer goods, such as clothing, also fell more than the overall reading, by 1.3 per cent on the month.

However, in a positive sign for future investment, the output of capital goods, such as machinery, went up by 0.7 per cent on the month.