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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

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Beto not even best Dem against Abbott

Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in June. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Delayed maps upend midterm campaigns

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Midterm candidates are panicking about how the congressional maps will ultimately be drawn, with several strategists telling Axios campaigns are in limbo.

Why it matters: Candidates are unsure if the district they're targeting will remain intact or be reshaped by the process. The uncertainty is especially vexing to Democrats, who are vying to maintain their narrow margin in the House.

First look: Conservatives' 2022 big target: Tax increases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Conservative groups are unveiling huge ad-buys going after vulnerable House Democrats over tax increases and other revenue measures in their party's massive infrastructure spending bill, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: President Biden and Democrats have an immense amount of political capital riding on a $3.5 trillion bill facing razor-thin margins in both chambers. Conservatives are running ads targeting the House members who leaders will need to pass the measure.

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