German economic output 'at near stagnation'

A worker at a Ford factory in Cologne Germany's reading was the worst for three months

Germany's economy slowed to "near stagnation" last month, while France's recorded its biggest contraction for four years, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit composite purchasing managers' index (PMI), which measures both the manufacturing and services sectors, declined to 50.6 in Germany last month, from 53.3 in February.

Any figure above 50 indicates growth.

France's reading fell to 41.9 points, its worst since March 2009.

For the eurozone as a whole, the index fell to 46.5 from 47.9 in February.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said the latest data painted a gloomy picture.

"The [eurozone] recession is deepening once again as businesses report that they have become increasingly worried about the region's debt crisis and political instability," he said.

"The unresolved election in Italy was commonly cited as a key factor clouding the economic outlook in March, and the botched bail-out of Cyprus could well filter through to a further worsening of business sentiment across the region in April."

Mr Williamson added that the weak showing from Germany "suggests that the only source of bright light in an otherwise gloomy region has once again begun to fade".

Germany's index reading was the worst in the country for three months.

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