Services help shore up eurozone economy in Q1 - survey

LONDON — A closely monitored survey shows that the 19-country eurozone ended the first quarter of the year on a sluggish but positive note, largely because a resilient performance by the services sector helped offset a downturn in manufacturing.

Financial information company IHS Markit said Wednesday that its eurozone composite purchasing managers index — a broad gauge of economic activity — fell to 51.6 in March from 51.9 the month before.

Since anything above 50 indicates expansion, the firm said its findings suggest eurozone growth in the first quarter of just 0.2 percent.

There were marked divergences across the bloc, with Spain doing particularly well but France seeing output shrink.

Chief business economist Chris Williamson said "downside risks to the outlook have intensified" because forward-looking indicators from manufacturing point to further weakness in the coming months.

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