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French business activity at three-month low in February - PMI

·1-min read
The financial district of La Defense during a nationwide evening curfew

PARIS (Reuters) - French business activity fell to a three-month low in February, albeit not as much as initially thought, as COVID-19 restrictions weigh on the dominant service sector, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its Purchasing Managers' Index fell last month to 47.0 from 47.7 in January, better than an initial reading of 45.2 and bringing the index further away from the 50-point threshold dividing an expansion in activity from a contraction.

IHS Markit's PMI sub-index for the service sector fell to 45.6 from 47.3, better than an initial reading of 43.6.

With many business leaders fearing a new lockdown last month amid rising coronavirus cases, both indexes fell to the lowest level since November, when France was put under a second lockdown to contain the outbreak.

"February PMI data pointed to a continuation of the coronavirus-driven downturn seen throughout the winter months in the French private sector," IHS economist Eliot Kerr said.

"Again, weakness was centred on services, where businesses are most hindered by restrictions related to the pandemic, with some firms remaining temporarily closed," Kerr added.

While France has so far been spared a third nationwide lockdown, the government is increasingly looking at targeted restrictions in regions where case numbers are rising particularly fast.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Catherine Evans)