Weaker services weighs on French business activity in September: PMI

FILE PHOTO: A man rides his bicycle past a boarded up business in the French Quarter amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

PARIS (Reuters) - French business activity fell in September for the first time since June as the service sector kept losing momentum in the face of concerns about rising COVID-19 infection rates, a survey showed on Monday.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its purchasing managers index, covering the services and manufacturing sectors, fell to 48.5 from 51.6 in August, unchanged from a preliminary reading.

The index dropped below the 50-point threshold dividing an expansion in activity from a contraction for the first time since June, after France emerged from a nearly two-month coronavirus lockdown the previous month.

IHS Markit’s PMI index for the services sector also fell into contraction territory at 47.5.

Already published data for the manufacturing sector, much less client-facing than services, showed that activity picked up slightly there.

“Rising COVID-19 infection rates contributed to a downturn in private sector business activity at the end of third quarter,” IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.

“Panellists commented that their clients were hesitant to commit to future work while the prospect of tightening restrictions loomed large,” he added.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Toby Chopra