French Economy’s ‘Sluggish’ Growth Seen Persisting This Quarter

France’s economy showed signs of weakening this month, with a gauge of business activity falling to its lowest level in a year.

Markit Economics said its composite Purchasing Managers Index slipped to 49.8 from 50.2 in January, dropping below the 50 level that divides expansion from contraction. The report also showed that companies cut prices at the fastest pace in more than a year, with weak demand partly to blame.

“The private-sector economy continues to follow a broadly stagnant path,” said Jack Kennedy, a senior economist at Markit in London. He said growth will remain “sluggish” this quarter after growth of 0.2 percent in the last three months of 2015.

Coupled with concern about the strength of global demand, the PMI may damp optimism about France’s economy. Still, a separate business-sentiment index jumped to a five-year high in January, and Markit noted that the rate of contraction signalled by the PMI was “negligible.”

Markit said its manufacturing index unexpectedly rose to

50.3 in February from 50 in January. The services gauge fell to

49.8 from 50.3.

In the 19-nation euro area, both the factory and services measures probably declined this month, according to surveys of economists. Markit will publish those numbers at 9 a.m. London time.

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