ROME, Oct 10 (Reuters)- Italian industrial output was much stronger than expected in August, rising 1.7 percent and offering some signs of a pick-up, but national statistics bureau ISTAT cautioned that the data may have been influenced by seasonal factors.
The median forecast of a Reuters' poll of 22 analysts had projected a monthly reading of -0.4 percent in August. Forecasts spanned -1.4 percent and +1.6 percent.
August output data in Italy can be highly erratic because many factories are closed for the summer break, making seasonal adjustment more important and more difficult than in other months, a spokesman from statistics office ISTAT said.
"It nevertheless shows some positive trends in industry, but we will have to wait for September and October data to see if those trends continue," the spokesman said.
ISTAT revised up July's output data to show a 0.1 percent fall, originally reported as a 0.2 percent decline.
On a work-day adjusted year-on-year basis, output in August was down 5.2 percent, compared to a 7.2 percent decline in July.
Italy has been mired in recession since the middle of last year. The economy shrank 0.8 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the first, and was down 2.6 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, data confirmed this week.
The economic slump has been accentuated by austerity measures adopted by Mario Monti's technocrat government when he took office at the end of last year, aimed at heading off a debt crisis.
The government said in September it expected Italy's economy would shrink this year by 2.4 percent, twice as much as the previous projection of a 1.2 percent drop, made in April.
ISTAT has said it expects the economy may contract slightly less than the government forecasts this year, pointing to signs of an improvement in industrial output and confidence in the second half of the year.
In August, output rose in the consumer and investment goods sector and in the energy industry, while falling slightly in intermediate goods.
The rise in Italy's output mirrored a 1.5 percent surge in French industrial output, while output in Germany, Europe's largest economy, fell 0.5 percent.
Germany, France and Italy make up around two thirds of total euro zone industrial output. Aggregate data for the currency bloc will be released on Friday.
ISTAT gave the following details.
INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION AUGUST JULY JUNE
Mth/mth pct change (adjusted) 1.7 -0.1r -1.1r
Yr/yr pct change (adjusted) -5.2 -7.2r -7.9
Yr/yr pct change (unadjusted) -5.1 -4.3r -7.9
NOTE: BASE 2005=100.
(r) indicates revised figures.
ISTAT provided the following breakdown by broad product group:
adjusted mth/mth pct change
AUGUSTConsumer goods 4.0Investment goods 2.3Intermediate goods -0.5Energy goods 1.0
((Catherine Hornby, Rome newsroom +39 06 8522 4350, fax +39 06 854 0568 firstname.lastname@example.org))