France: Manufacturing output slowed in March
Purchasing Managers' Index is off three-year high in February

New research released on Tuesday has revealed signs of a slowdown in the French economy as manufacturing output fell back.

The Markit France Composite Purchasing Managers' Index also showed that services activity remained "solid, albeit slower than in February."

The March Flash PMI reading was down to 51.7 from 52.2 in February; last month’s reading had been a three-year high for the index.

The PMI is a survey of purchasing managers across the country.

Tuesday’s data also signaled a rise in new businesses and private sector output.

Service providers reported a solid pace of expansion to February, with panelists commenting on improving demand conditions and successful marketing strategies.

However, manufacturers complained of a drop in orders, and declining exports.

Senior economist at Markit, Jack Kennedy, said: "March’s PMI data show a further tentative expansion of output in France’s private sector economy."

"Activity rose for the second month running, following a nine-month spell of decline through to January 2015. Supporting higher output was a faster rise in new business, which increased at the sharpest rate in 43 months."

"However, the divergence in sector performance continued, with the service sector again shouldering the burden of expansion amid ongoing contraction in manufacturing," he added.

Unemployment has climbed to a 16-year high in France, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.

However, the PMI survey reveals that employment in the French private sector rose for the first time in 17 months during March. However, the increase was only fractional. Slight growth of staffing levels at service providers only counterbalanced a marginal reduction at manufacturers, the survey found.

Business expectations in the French service sector remained positive in March. That said, the degree of confidence expressed by firms slipped from February’s 35-month high to the lowest since December 2014, according to the survey.

France's GDP growth in 2014 was 0.4 percent, and it has remained at about that level through the first quarter of 2015.

Last Modified: 2015-03-24 09:47:40
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