Euro zone slump moderates but German worries appear: PMIs

Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:37am EDT
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By Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) - A sharp drop in German business activity overshadowed an easing downturn in France in April, surveys showed on Tuesday, raising concerns over a further economic contraction in the euro zone.

Markit's flash euro zone services PMI, an early gauge of business activity each month, rose to 46.6 in April from 46.4 in March, below the 50 line that divides growth from contraction but matching the forecast of economists.

Survey compiler Markit cautioned against taking the rise as a clear sign the region's recession has bottomed out, pointing to a surprise decline in German companies that form the backbone of the euro zone economy.

"Previously, we've seen Germany expand while other countries have contracted - notably Spain, Italy and France," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

"Now it seems those contractions are being accompanied by a downturn in the largest economy, Germany, and that will no doubt act as a drag on growth."

There was some respite for French companies, which in March endured their worst month since the depths of the deep recession in 2009, and that helped to support the latest wider euro zone PMI.

Williamson said officials at the European Central Bank, which meets next week to decide monetary policy, may be relieved to see the euro zone PMIs at least did not signal a further deterioration this month.

However, that could change.   Continued...

Bernard Mickael, 35, from France, a worker at Belgian company Picanol, demonstrates to Reuters journalists how iron is melted for the company's weaving machines in a foundry at the factory's plant in Ypres, January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman