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BREAKING NEWS

No rebound for French services as protests ease in January - PMI

No rebound for French services as protests ease in January - PMI
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Charles Platiau(Reuters)
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PARIS (Reuters) - French services firms saw no respite in January from a slump triggered a month earlier by violent anti-government protests as business activity pulled back to a near five-year low, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The deeper downturn in the dominant service sector, which weighed on broader business activity, comes even as the protests eased in January.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the service sector fell to 47.8 in January, down from 49.0 in December though not as bad as the 47.5 seen in a preliminary reading.

Nonetheless, the final January reading marked the second month the index came in below the 50-point threshold between a contraction and expansion in activity and was the lowest since February 2014.

The slump pushed the composite PMI index, comprising both services and already reported manufacturing activity, down to 48.2 from 48.7 in December. That was up from a preliminary reading of 47.9, but was the lowest since November 2014.

Service activity plunged into contraction in January as a series of "yellow vest" protests, named after the fluorescent vests drivers must keep in their cars, forced many restaurants and stores to board up ahead of the holidays.

Though protesters continued to hold marches on Saturday throughout January, they have generally been less violent and disruptive to businesses.

"January data pointed to an even faster decline in service sector activity than in protest-hit December," IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.

"It seems the key driver of the latest contraction was on the demand-side, with panellists reporting a slowdown in orders from clients."

New orders fell in January at the fastest pace since June 2013, which bodes ill for future services activity.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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