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Steel coils lie next to a transport truck in a storage area before shipment to the Salzgitter AG steel plant in Salzgitter, Germany on Monday, March 2, 2020. The steelmaker reports his results on March 16.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg

Germany and France, the two largest economies in the euro area, both experienced unexpected declines in industrial production in February, suggesting that coronavirus restrictions are increasingly hurting parts of the world. economies that have been shown to be resilient so far.

German production fell 1.6% from the previous month, surprising all but three economists in a Bloomberg survey. Production in France fell 4.7% and stagnated in Spain.

Industrial production declines in Germany and France as economies fight lockdown

The eurozone’s manufacturing sector has held up relatively well in recent months, as it benefits from the economic recovery in China and elsewhere. A separate statement showed that German exports rose 0.9% in February.

At home, persistently high coronavirus infections have crippled much of the service sector, likely leading to production contractions in the first quarter.

The decline in industrial production in France – the largest in ten months – was driven by an 11.4% drop in the automotive sector. In Germany, capital goods were particularly affected.

However, the German Ministry of the Economy has expressed some optimism about the resumption of growth momentum in the coming months.

“Improving business confidence and the positive trend in orders signal a positive outlook in the industry,” he said. “Nevertheless, the future course of the pandemic poses uncertainties.”

What Bloomberg Economics Says …

“The surprise drop in German production casts doubt on the narrative that the boom in global manufacturing is a big source of support for activity. Order books continue to fill, and survey data shows companies are as optimistic as they have ever been about the outlook. Data from Friday suggests that is not translating into higher production yet. “

Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that she would be in favor of another brief and brutal two to three week stop to contain the pandemic. While some regional leaders are reluctant to even fully implement current measures, she has threatened to transfer powers to the federal level to impose further restrictions.

Earlier this week, France slashed its forecast for economic growth for this year from 6% to 5% as a tighter one-month lockdown is hurting activity. The government is counting on a strong rebound from the summer to compensate for a weak start to the year.

“I am convinced that as soon as the health crisis is behind us, I hope that this summer, the French economy will recover quickly and strongly,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sud Radio on Friday.

– With the help of Harumi Ichikura and Kristian Siedenburg

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