Private sector business activity remained weak across the eurozone in April, with Germany registering its first decline since November, a widely-watched survey showed on Monday.
The Markit Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers Index registered 46.9 points, slightly up on an initial estimate and above the March reading of 46.5 points -- but still well below the boom-and-bust line of 50 points indicating growth or recession.
It was the 19th time in 20 months that the survey of thousands of eurozone companies signalled a contraction in the single currency area's economy, and a 15th consecutive overall shrinking -- although the researchers noted a first easing in the rate of decline since January.
Both manufacturing and services sectors posted weak readings.
"The survey does little to dilute suspicion that the eurozone is headed for further GDP contraction in the second quarter after highly likely suffering a sixth successive quarter of contraction in the first quarter of 2013," said London-based IHS Global Insight analyst Howard Archer.
He tipped a decline of 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter.
The survey detail showed that job losses were reported for the 16th month running in April, although there was a slight increase in employment in Germany for the second straight month.
While Markit chief economist Chris Williamson highlighted cooling inflationary pressures, the man behind the survey said of the initial estimate: "The renewed decline in Germany will also raise fears that the region's largest growth engine has moved into reverse, thereby acting as a drag on the region at the same time as particularly steep downturns persist in France, Italy and Spain."