Italy's recession has deepened with its economy shrinking for the fourth quarter in a row.

Official government statistics released today show that that the economy contracted by 0.7% in the second quarter compared with the previous three months.

Compared with the same time last year, the economy shrank by 2.5%.

This is the worst year-on-year contraction since the fourth quarter of 2009, when the economy shrank by 3.5%.

Premier Mario Monti has recently been courting other European leaders seeking some fiscal leeway to allow Italian to grow the economy, rather than sticking to tight budgetary targets that tend to have a recessionary impact.

Economic growth is seen as the most effective means of bringing down the nation's high public debt, now at 123% of the country's GDP.