Eurozone economy took record hit in March: IHS Markit

Italy’s Economy Suffering Record Blow Amid Mass Shutdown

"While employment is not yet falling as fast as seen during the financial crisis, the coming months will no doubt see jobless numbers rise sharply".

The one scant consolation is that countries like Spain - in lockdown for longer - are suffering even worse.

Sterling slid 1.1% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to below $1.23 at around midday on Friday.

The freefall brought the index to its lowest level since the survey began in 1998 and took it far below the 50 point threshold between an expansion and a contraction in business.

"The Italian services sector was hit substantially by the COVID-19 pandemic in March, with the Business Activity Index dropping by almost 35 points and signalling the most marked decline in services output since the survey began in January 1998".

- Detailed PMI data are only available under licence from IHS Markit and customers need to apply for a licence. Its index sank to 34.5 from February's 53.2, and was also weaker than the March flash reading of 35.7.

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Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: "The services sector was sucked into a black hole and flung into the unknown by the forceful impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus". Service providers drove the overall downturn, although both sectors reported record declines in output.

"However, employment levels across the service sector still dropped at the fastest pace for more than a decade, reflecting some forced redundancies and the non-replacement of departing staff amid widespread hiring freezes".

High streets lie empty as businesses face a "beyond grim" outlook amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain's government has said it will pay 80 per cent of the wages of workers who are furloughed by companies.

However, nearly a million people have already applied for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks alone despite the support package. This reportedly reflects the sharpest decline in output in 11 years.

The Federation of Small Businesses and the Corporate Finance Network this week has warned that millions of firms could collapse in weeks without a cash infusion.

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