PARIS (Reuters) – French manufacturing activity fell in March at the fastest pace in more than seven years as a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak hits companies and their clients, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday.
Data compiler IHS Markit said its final Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 43.2 points from 49.8 in February, slightly higher than a preliminary reading of 42.9.
The plunge to its lowest point since January 2013 brought the index far away from the key 50-point line dividing expansions in activity from contractions.
Meanwhile, manufacturers’ output and the flow of orders for new business fell to their lowest levels since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis that unleashed one of the deepest recessions in decades in many major economies.
As the coronavirus spread in France, the government imposed a lockdown on March 17, forcing large swathes of the euro zone’s second-biggest economy to shut down.
“The supply of goods is diminished, with supplier delivery times lengthening sharply and staff unable to work amid factory closures,” IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.
“Meanwhile, restricted movement of people and social distancing has acted to stifle demand, delivering a double-barrelled blow to the economy,” he added.
The INSEE official statistics agency estimated last week that the economy was operating at two-thirds of its normal level, which was likely to knock 3 percentage points off growth for each month the country spends in lockdown.
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French manufacturing plunges into deepest slump in seven years: PMI
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