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EU, euro economic confidence drops again

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[March 30, 2009]  BRUSSELS (AP) -- EU and euro-zone business and consumer confidence dropped again in March to the lowest level in 24 years, the European Commission said Monday.

The survey of how companies and shoppers see the economy fell more slowly than in the first two months of the year, the EU executive said.

It is now at the lowest level since statistics started in January 1985 for both the 16 nations that use the euro and the entire 27-nation European Union.

The economic sentiment indicator declined from 60.9 to 60.4 in the EU and from 65.3 to 64.6 in the euro area.

Industry and services sectors were more pessimistic than last month but retailers were more upbeat in both regions. Construction confidence was unchanged.

Consumer confidence was stable in the EU, but fell slightly in the euro area. Shoppers were more worried about unemployment, the general economic situation and about their own savings in the year ahead.

In financial services, managers said they expected demand to worsen, with those in the euro area seeing a far bleaker downturn than colleagues across the EU.

Italians saw the biggest drop in confidence during the month with softer falls in France, Poland, Germany and Britain. The Netherlands and Spain rebounded slightly.

A separate survey of euro-zone industry managers also fell again in March to a new low as executives said orders and foreign sales were down, unsold stocks were rising and they expected output to drop in coming months.

The EU said this drop in the business climate indicator -- to minus 3.58 -- signaled "markedly negative" output for industrial output in February after a record fall in January.

"Given the current levels, it also suggests that industrial production growth will remain clearly subdued in March," it said.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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