UPDATE: Italy Apr Non-EU Trade Deficit EUR76M Vs EUR1.77B
    (Adds comment, background.)     By Sofia Celeste    Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES  

ROME (Dow Jones)--Italy's trade deficit with non-European Union countries narrowed in April, as imports fell at their steepest rate since 1993 and exports to China increased, statistics office Istat said Tuesday, but an overall decline in exports still bodes ill for Italian economic activity.

The trade deficit with non-E.U. countries was EUR76 million in April, compared with a deficit of EUR1.77 billion in the year-earlier period.

Overall, imports fell 29.6% in April on year, while exports fell 20.5%. Exports to China rose 8.2%, while imports from China fell 11.3%.

Italian research group CERM said in a note that the exports data increase the likelihood that Italy's economy will continue to contract in the second quarter.

If the economic crisis continues for the longer term, small businesses, which are the backbone of Italy's manufacturing-based economy, will suffer most, CERM said.

"A turnaround, in most cases, could be too late," CERM said.

Preliminary data showed that Italian gross domestic product in January to March fell 2.4% from the previous quarter, its fastest rate since at least 1980.

Final first quarter GDP data will be released June 10 at 0900 GMT.

    Web site: www.istat.it  

-By Sofia Celeste, Dow Jones Newswires; +39 06 69766923; [email protected]

Click here to go to Dow Jones NewsPlus, a web front page of today's most important business and market news, analysis and commentary: http://www.djnewsplus.com/access/al?rnd=wJWAFJMYr5Jg95OYuRK2YQ%3D%3D. You can use this link on the day this article is published and the following day.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 26, 2009 10:15 ET (14:15 GMT)

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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