Bank of Italy sees economic growth slowing slightly in first quarter

ROME (Reuters) - The Bank of Italy said on Friday economic growth and industrial output probably slowed during the first three months of the year compared with the end of 2017.

"During the first quarter of this year, gross domestic product probably continued to expand, though at a slower rate than the previous period," the central bank said in its latest economic bulletin.

Italy's economy, the euro zone's third biggest, probably expanded 0.2 percent in the first quarter versus the previous period, compared with a 0.3 percent gain during the final quarter of last year, the bulletin said.

Industrial production was virtually flat during the first three months of this year, the bulletin said, after expanding 0.9 percent versus the previous quarter at the end of last year.

GDP increased 1.5 percent last year and the caretaker government of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni forecasts the same growth rate for 2018, leaving Italy in its customary position amongst the most sluggish economies in the euro zone.

Italian industrial output was much weaker than expected in February, data showed on Tuesday, unexpectedly falling for a second month running.

Italy's statistics office ISTAT is scheduled to release both first quarter GDP and industrial output figures next month.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, editing by Giulia Segreti)

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