Friday, survey data showed that the pace of contraction in Eurozone service sector activities slowed in March compared to February.

Meanwhile, European finance ministers said the European Central Bank is doing all that is possible to shore up the economy, which is sinking deeper into recession. These comments were made on the sidelines of the meeting of European Union finance ministers in Prague.

Outside the euro area, Swiss consumer prices in March showed the biggest annual fall since December 1959 amid central bank's efforts to fight deflation risks and prevent further strengthening of the franc. Elsewhere, house prices in the UK fell in March, but at a slower pace compared to February, results of a survey showed.

Eurozone

Citing data from the Markit Economics, reports said the purchasing managers' index or PMI for the services sector rose to 40.9 in March from February's 39.2 and a flash reading of 40.1. A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector, while below 50 suggests contraction.

The composite index, which combines both service sector and manufacturing sector PMIs, increased to 38.3 from 36.2 in the previous month. That was reportedly the biggest monthly rise since October 2003. It was also up from the preliminary reading of 37.6.

Germany's Federal Statistical Office said in a report that the import price index declined 6.4% year-over-year in February, after falling 5.4% in January. This was the biggest price decline since 1999, when prices fell 6.6%.

Italy's statistical office ISTAT announced that the producer price index dropped 2.8% year-over-year in February, after falling 2% in January. Economists were looking for a decline of 3%.

Spain's National Institute of Statistics announced that industrial production dropped a working day adjusted 22% year-over-year in February, after falling 20.9% in January. Economists were looking for a decline of 20.5%

The Irish economy is expected to shrink 6.9% this year, following a 2.3% decline in 2008, the central bank said. The GDP forecast for this year was slashed from 4% decline estimated initially. For 2010, the central bank estimates 3% contraction.

The Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic said retail sales at constant prices dropped 10.3% year-on-year in February after a 3.3% fall in the previous month.

Statistics Austria said the trade deficit stood at EUR 0.53 billion in January, narrowing from a EUR 0.74 billion deficit in the previous month.

Slovenia's industrial turnover dropped a working day adjusted 20.9% year-on-year in January, compared with a 22.1% fall in the previous month, the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia said.

Rest of Europe

Switzerland's Federal Statistical Office said consumer prices dropped 0.4% in March from the previous year, faster than 0.1% fall expected by economists. This was the first decline in five years and largest since December 1959, when prices slid 0.6%. In February, consumer prices rose 0.2%.

A report from Lloyds Banking Group Plc's Halifax division showed that the house price index slipped 1.9% in March, slower than a 2.3% decline in February. Economists expected house prices to fall only 1.8%.

In other news, UK Government net reserves increased US$378 million in March to US$28.23 billion from US$27.85 billion at end of February, the HM Treasury said.

Statistics Iceland announced that the overnight stays in hotels declined 6% year-on-year to 72,900 in February.

The Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia announced that industrial production dropped a seasonally adjusted 0.5% month-on-month in February. Meanwhile, manufacturing output declined 0.7%.

Industrial production in Denmark, excluding ships and other transport equipment, slipped a seasonally adjusted 2.7% month-on-month in February, following a 1.8% decline in the previous month, the Statistics Denmark said. This is the weakest result since February 2005.

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