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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Michele Spatari/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy fell into a technical recession in 2018, with quarter-over-quarter growth declining in both the third and fourth quarters of the year, national statistics bureau ISTAT reported on Thursday.

Of note: The country's GDP fell 0.2% in the fourth quarter, following a 0.1% decline in the third. However, Italian GDP rose 0.1% on an annual basis in Q4 and 0.7% in Q3. (The definition of recession is quite nuanced and hotly debated.)

Recession of any kind is generally worrisome, but markets were little moved by the news because Italy's stalled growth has been known for some time.

  • The spread between Italian 10-year bond yields and similarly dated German bonds remained near 240 basis points, and the country’s benchmark FTSE MIB closed just 0.21% lower on the day.

What they're saying: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was also undisturbed by the (technical) recession announcement.

  • "I'm not at all worried ... Even the most naive analysts know that at this moment there is a trade war going on between the United States and China," he told reporters.
  • "Above all, Germany is holding us back ... it's a transitional phase, which depends on external factors."
  • "We are interested in focusing on the relaunch of our economy, which will certainly take place in 2019 ... This relaunch will hit full capacity in the second half."

More bad news for the EU: German retail sales fell by 4.3% in December, the biggest monthly drop in 11 years.

Go deeper

Senate Democrats reach deal on extending unemployment insurance

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Democrats struck a deal Friday evening to extend unemployment insurance in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package after deliberating and halting other action for roughly nine hours, per a Senate aide.

Why it matters: The Senate can now resume voting on other amendments to the broader rescue bill.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

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