PMI Day: Italy's service sector is getting crushed

EuropeGettyOne of the sculptures of young girls by artist Rene Julien stands in front of a flag of the European Union at the Charlemagne building of the European Commission on November 17, 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. Eurozone member countries are continuing to struggle with a debt crisis afflicting a widening circle of nations as the rest of the world fears economic repercussions.

It’s PMI day in Europe, meaning we’re getting a final estimate for growth in March.

The verdict so far? Not bad. Or at least better than it has been.

The first reading, Spain’s services numbers, came in well ahead of economists forecasts, hitting 55.3 against a consensus of 54.5, and a February reading of 54.1.

Next, Italy. The services sector in the biggest economy in southern Europe had a horrible month in March, hitting just 51.2, way below last month’s 53.8, and even further below economist expectations of 54. “Business activity in Italy’s services economy rose at the slowest rate for 13 months in March, reflecting a weakening of new business growth” according to PMI provider Markit.

On Tuesday morning we’re getting readings on the state of play from the eurozone’s four biggest economies, as well as a Europe wide figure.

According to flash data, released by Markit a couple of weeks ago, the eurozone as whole saw a composite PMI reading of 53.7 in March, a three-month high, and well above the 53 expected by economists. We’ll find out if those numbers are correct at 9:00 a.m. GMT.

The purchasing managers index (PMI) figures from Markit are given as a number between 0 and 100. Anything above 50 signals growth, while anything below means a contraction in activity — so the higher the better.

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