COVID-19 impact: Eurozone economy took record hit in March, says IHS Markit

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Updated: April 3, 2020 3:31:55 PM

An IHS purchasing managers' index below 50 represents a contraction and the data group's chief business economist Chris Williamson said the eurozone economy is now shrinking at an annualised rate of almost 10 percent.

Ireland’s PMI was its lowest in 131 months, and those in Germany, France, Spain and Italy the lowest since the survey began. (Reuters)

Business activity in the 19-nation eurozone suffered a record fall in March and hit an historic low, according to the PMI index published on Friday by analysts IHS Markit. The IHS index for the month was 29.7 — down from Markit’s first estimate for March of 31.4 and well below the level in February of 51.6 points, before the coronavirus epidemic crippled the European economy.

An IHS purchasing managers’ index below 50 represents a contraction and the data group’s chief business economist Chris Williamson said the eurozone economy is now shrinking at an annualised rate of almost 10 percent. “The four largest nations covered by the survey all registered record declines in activity, with Italy and Spain experiencing the sharpest reductions,” the final data release said.

Ireland’s PMI was its lowest in 131 months, and those in Germany, France, Spain and Italy the lowest since the survey began. “No countries are escaping the severe downturn in business activity,” Williamson warned. “But the especially steep decline in of Italy’s service sector … gives a taste of things to come for other countries as closures and lockdowns become more prevalent and more strictly enforced in coming months.

“While employment is not yet falling as fast as seen during the financial crisis, the coming months will no doubt see jobless numbers rise sharply. “However, the ultimate economic cost of the COVID-19 outbreak cannot be accurately estimated until we get more clarity on the duration and scale of the pandemic,” he said.

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