Defying economists' forecasts that it would continue a downward slump as recession-hit Italy battles the eurozone debt crisis, confidence in the Italian manufacturing sector unexpectedly rose in June.

The confidence index published by the National Institute of Statistics (Istat) rose to 88.9 points from 86.6 points in May, while economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a drop to 85.4 points.

Even with the positive rebound in June, the confidence index is still at its lowest since October 2009. Italy slid into recession at the end of last year, and saw its economy contract further in the first quarter of 2012.

Istat also for the first time published an index which groups together confidence in Italy's manufacturing, construction, services and retail sectors, which dropped slightly to 75.4 points from 75.5 points in May.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012