French Economy Picks Up, Remains ‘Sluggish,’ Markit Says

France’s economy showed signs of a limited pickup at the end of the first quarter as services expanded at the fastest pace in five months.

Markit Economics said its services Purchasing Managers Index rose to 51.2 in March from 49.2 in February, moving back above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction.

While manufacturing shrank for the first time in seven months, the services pickup was enough to push a composite gauge of private-sector economic activity to 51.1, a five-month high.

With growth in China and other emerging markets slowing, surveys have shown confidence among French executives slipping recently. The Bank of France said this month that first-quarter expansion will be weaker than it previously anticipated, at 0.3 percent.

“The French private sector economy ended the first quarter on a more positive note,” said Jack Kennedy, an economist at Markit. Still, the PMI does “little to suggest any break from the sluggish growth pattern seen during recent times.”

Markit’s euro-area index will be published at 9 a.m. London time. Economists forecast that the composite index remained at 53 this month.

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