May 14, 2014 / 9:11 AM / in 5 years

Euro zone March output unexpectedly falls on energy

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone industrial output fell as expected on the month in March and dropped unexpectedly year-on-year because of a steep drop in energy production, data from the European Union’s Statistics Office showed on Wednesday.

An employee of German auto parts supplier Robert Bosch prepares a conductor board of a KTS-diagnostic system at the production line in Plochingen near Stuttgart April 15, 2013. Picture taken April 15. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Industrial output in the 18 countries sharing the euro dropped 0.3 percent compared to February and fell 0.1 percent on the year. Analysts polled by Reuters expected a 1.0 percent year-on-year rise.

It was the first year-on-year decline since August 2013 when the bloc’s industrial production fell 1.6 percent, Eurostat said, mainly because energy production nose-dived 11.9 percent, dropping for the fourth consecutive month. It was the biggest annual drop in energy output since April 2009.

This offset a 2.6 percent rise in the production of capital goods and a 2.2 percent rise in the output of intermediate goods.

The monthly drop was caused by a fall of production across all sectors, with the output of durable consumer goods - such as cars - flat on the month.

Economists polled by Reuters estimate the euro zone economy grew 0.4 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of the year, accelerating from 0.3 percent in the previous three months, mainly thanks to exports and rising domestic demand.

The first GDP growth estimate EUGDF=ECI for the first quarter is due on Thursday. If confirmed at the market estimate of 0.4 percent, it would be the strongest growth in three years.

Germany was the only one of the bloc’s ‘big three’ that include France and Italy, with output rising on the year in March.

But German investor morale plummeted for a fourth consecutive months in May and hit its lowest level in more than a year, although production in the bloc’s largest economy fell on the month for the first time in three months.

The European Central Bank, which is expected to ease monetary policy in June to decrease deflation risks, said last week data for the first quarter suggested the recovery was ongoing.

Reporting by Martin Santa

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