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Coronavirus Outbreak Drives Record Fall In French Private Sector

French private sector activity contracted at the sharpest rate in nearly 22 years in March, flash survey data from IHS Markit showed Tuesday.

The composite output index declined to a record low 30.2 in March from 51.9 in February. The reading was well below 39.8. A score below 50 indicates contraction in the sector.

The reduction was broad-based, but faster at service providers who recorded their quickest decline since data collection began in May 1998.

The services Purchasing Managers' Index came in at a record low 29.0 in March versus 52.6 in the previous month. The expected reading was 42.0.

The manufacturing PMI dropped to an 86-month low of 42.9 versus 49.7 a month ago. Economists had forecast a score of 40.0.

Eliot Kerr, an economist at IHS Markit said, "The latest PMI data revealed dismal results for the French private sector, with coronavirus-driven shutdowns leading to widespread economic disruption."

Readings suggest GDP is collapsing at an annualized rate approaching double digits, the economist added.

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