IHS Markit’s Business Activity Index for services came in at 48.6, down from 48.8 in February, remaining below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction as coronavirus restrictions continued to weigh on the sector.
The median forecast in a Reuters survey of 17 analysts had pointed to a reading of 49.0.
The sub-index for new business declined to 48.6 from 50.2. February’s figure was the first growth in orders in a year.
The services PMI collapsed to a record low of 10.8 in April 2020, reflecting the severe impact of Italy’s first coronavirus lockdown. It rose over the following three months, and breached 50 in July before slipping again.
IHS Markit’s sister survey for manufacturing, released on April 1, showed activity expanding for a ninth straight month in March and at the fastest rate in 21 years.
Factories, unlike many services, have remained open through the coronavirus crisis.
The composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for services and manufacturing rose to 51.9 in March from 51.4 in February, posting the highest reading since July last year. (Reporting by Angelo Amante; editing by John Stonestreet)