Markit's preliminary March purchasing managers' index—which measures monthly changes in private-sector output—came in at 42.1 (pdf), down from 43.1 in February. (Anything lower than 50 reflects a drop in output.) That's the fastest slowdown in business activity France has seen since March 2009. And Jack Kennedy, economist at Markit, says this likely augurs a larger crumbling of the French economy.
"My take is it's really a continuation of the sharp weakening pattern we've seen in recent months—so very much a trend rather than a blip," Kennedy tells Quartz. "Most of the anecdotal feedback from the survey panel points to a general lack of confidence and clients reining in spending accordingly."
To frame it in another horrifying perspective, the PMI of the euro zone's second-largest economy was lower than that of Spain and Italy—and almost down to Greek levels (video), as Reuters' Jamie McGeever explains.'