ROME (Reuters)- Italian consumer morale rose more expected in January after a fall the month before, with improved sentiment on personal finances outweighing a decline in confidence over the country's economy, data showed on Tuesday.
National statistics bureau ISTAT's headline consumer confidence index rose to 98.0 in January from 96.4 in December, slightly revised up from an originally reported 96.2.
The index remained marginally below November's level and significantly below a recent high of 100.8 posted in September.
January's data was above the median forecast of 97.0 in a Reuters survey of 14 analysts. Forecasts spanned 96.2. to 97.2.
Consumers were significantly more upbeat about their personal situation, with the relevant sub-index rising 3 points to 100.3 from 97.3.
Their view on the country's economy, however, slipped to 92.0 from 92.9, with sentiment on the future economic prospects of Italy falling more sharply to -26 from -18.
Analysts say ISTAT's consumer confidence index shows little immediate correlation with spending patterns, though it does reflect longer term trends.
Consumer spending has long been an Achilles heel of the Italian economy, which has been the most sluggish in the euro zone for more than a decade.
The currency bloc's third largest economy is struggling to emerge from its longest post-war recession, with personal incomes suffering during the crisis and unemployment at record levels.
Enrico Letta's coalition government forecast the economy will expand by 1.1 percent this year, but most analysts expect growth of around half that rate. The economy contracted by an estimated 1.8 percent in 2013.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones)