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French services slowdown eases in March despite COVID curbs: IHS Markit | Reuters

A slowdown in France’s service sector eased in March despite tougher coronavirus restrictions, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday, offering the euro zone’s second-biggest economy some relief.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its purchasing managers index for services rose to 48.2 from 45.6 in February, better than a preliminary reading of 47.8 and closer to the 50-point threshold that divides expansion from contraction.

IHS Markit’s overall PMI index, which also includes already published data from the manufacturing sectors, rose to 50.0 from 47.0 in February, also better than the 49.5 originally reported.

The improvement came even though the government tightened restrictions first in Paris and then nationwide in the face of surging new coronavirus cases and pressure on hospitals.

“Following a six-month sequence of contraction, latest PMI data pointed to a stabilisation in activity levels across the French private sector,” IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.

“The recent reintroduction of lockdown measures in Paris is a slight setback but the resilience in sentiment suggests that businesses are looking beyond the short term and preparing for the wider reopening of the economy,” IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said. Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by John Stonestreet

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