imageEconomic Indicators13 hours ago (Feb 21, 2020 03:21AM ET)

PARIS (Reuters) – French business activity expanded faster than expected in February as a rebound in the service sector following transport strikes at the end of last year helped offset a slump in manufacturing, a business survey showed on Friday.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its composite flash purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 51.9 points in February from 51.1 in January. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a reading of 51.0 points.

The rise was mainly due to an expansion in the dominant services sector, which offset a drop in manufacturing activity.

While transport strikes over pension reform gradually dissolved in the first weeks of January, manufacturers are now having to contend with the outbreak of coronavirus in China disrupting their supply chains.

The February flash PMI reading for the services sector stood at 52.6 points, up from 51.0 in January and well above economists’ forecasts on average for 51.3.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing reading fell to 49.7 from 51.1, hitting its lowest level since July and markedly worse than the average forecast for 50.7.

PMI readings above 50.0 point to growth in activity while those below indicate a contraction.

The French economy unexpectedly shrank in the final quarter of last year as manufacturing output slumped in the face of the pension reform strikes, official data showed last month.

The PMI survey showed that French manufacturers saw new orders from abroad plunge to the lowest level since March 2019 and backlogs build up as the coronavirus outbreak hit supply chains around the world.

French business activity firms in February despite manufacturing slump: PMIs

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