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Belgian Business Confidence Unexpectedly Drops to 3 1/2-Year Low

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March 22 (Bloomberg) -- Belgian business confidence unexpectedly fell to a 3 1/2-year low in March, mirroring a decline in Germany, as demand prospects worsened among executives in all industries surveyed.

The confidence index for Belgium decreased to minus 15 from minus 11 in February, the Brussels-based National Bank of Belgium said today. That’s the lowest reading since September 2009. Economists had predicted a gain to minus 10.4, according to the median of 13 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey.

“In the business-related services, prospects regarding general market demand deteriorated significantly and the current level of activity was considered to be below normal,” the central bank said in the statement. “In the manufacturing industry, the downturn was especially due to a more unfavorable assessment of stocks and to worsened demand expectations.”

The decline mirrors an unexpected retreat in German business confidence, which fell for the first time in five months in March, the Ifo institute in Munich said earlier today. Belgian consumer confidence also plunged this month as concerns about rising unemployment reached the highest level in more than three years amid a worsening economic outlook.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Martens in Brussels at jmartens1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerrold Colten at jcolten@bloomberg.net

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