Italy registered an average inflation rate of 1.2 percent in 2013, down from 3 percent in 2012, the lowest rate since 2009, statistics institute Istat said in a preliminary estimate on Friday. Istat said the Italian annual inflation rate was steady at 0.7 percent in December, while annual inflation of the so-called "trolley" of most-frequently bought goods such as food and fuel rose to 1.3 percent in December from 0.8 percent in November and October. Italy's worst recession of the last 40 years has officially ended with zero gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the third quarter of 2013, but it will take a long time before its negative effects begin to diminish, according to local analysts. The European Central Bank (ECB) said on Friday that loans to Italian businesses fell 5.9 percent in November, the sharpest monthly decline ever recorded. According to business association Confesercenti, Italians will spend 66 euros (90 U.S. dollars) each for the upcoming Jan. 6 Epiphany feast, 12 percent down on 2013 figures. Some 54 percent of citizens will not be making any kind of gift, the association also estimated. Although the economic crisis continues to bite, analysts however said on Friday that international investors were responding to Italy's positive recent bond sales as well as the prospect of the much needed structural reforms promised in 2014 by the country's left-right government. For the first time since 2011, the spread between the yields for Italian government bonds and the benchmark Deutsche bunds from Germany, which is seen as a fluid measure of the economy's health, fell below the psychologically important threshold of 200 points on Friday. Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni hailed the sharp lowering. "The spread going below that threshold indicates that the markets appreciate the work of the government, its commitment to maintaining fiscal stability and launching reforms, both institutional and economic," he was quoted as saying by ANSA news agency. Italy has been struggling for the last two years to keep public finances in order, as requested by the European Union's (EU) rigor policies, while trying at the same time to revamp its economy hampered by the eurozone second largest public debt, which burdens for around 133 percent of GDP. The government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta is set to pass fundamental reforms this year to liberalize markets and bolster political stability with a new voting law aimed at producing clear winners.