MILAN -- Italy's industrial output shrank 6.7% in 2012 from 2011 to a record low, official data released by the Istat agency on Friday showed.

Industrial production was at its lowest level since Istat began keeping production records in 1990.

"This was a year of suffering for Italian industry," an Istat official was quoted as saying by Dow Jones Newswires.

For the month of December alone, industrial production rose 0.4% from November — slightly higher than the increase of 0.3% that had been forecast by analysts.

Analysts had expected a 6.6% drop for year.

The Istat official said the December rise could be seen as "a timid positive sign.”

Italy's economy, the third-biggest in the eurozone, has been in recession since the third quarter of 2011 and is expected to stay in recession this year although a slight recovery is expected in the second half of the year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013