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Euro zone sentiment in record plunge as coronavirus strikes

Euro zone sentiment suffered its steepest ever monthly decline in March as the coronavirus led to declining confidence among consumers and all sectors of the economy.

In many cases the declines were evident even before crippling lockdowns were imposed. 

Economic sentiment in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell to 94.5 points in March from 103.4 in February, sharply breaking an upward trend in place from November, European Commission survey data showed today. 

The decline was the steepest monthly drop since records began in 1985. 

The overall figure, the lowest since September 2013, was slightly above the average 93 average forecast in a Reuters poll of economists. 

However, the Commission said that its data might be less accurate and comparable than usual because its fieldwork effectively stalled due to containment measures designed to stem the spread of the virus. 

Survey responses were collected between Feb 26 and March 23, but in practice the vast majority were from before national measures were enacted, such as the closure of schools, non-food shops, restaurants, cafes and sports facilities. 

For Germany and Italy, between 71 and 85% of responses were collected before significant containment measures. For France, it was more than 95%. 

Dramatic falls in expectations concerning future production and demand and the general economic situation were behind the record slump. Future employment expectations also worsened. 

Selling prices expectations fell markedly in all business sectors, led by services and retail, although consumer price expectations increased. 

Among the larger euro area economies, sentiment fell sharpest in Italy, the European country worst hit by the health crisis, and in Germany, the zone’s largest economy. 

In Britain, which has now left the EU, the decline was less marked, by just 3.5 points to 92. 

The average levels for all figures since 2000 is 100.

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