Preliminary data published by HCOB showed that in May, activity in the eurozone private sector continued to expand (for the fifth month in a row), but the pace of expansion slowed down compared to April, and was lower than experts' forecasts. Meanwhile, business confidence about the outlook fell to a five-month low, falling below the long-term average amid growing concerns about the economic outlook.
The Eurozone Composite PMI Output Index fell to 53.3 points in May from 54.1 points in April. The last value was the lowest in three months. Economists had expected a decline to 53.7 points. The growth divergence between manufacturing and services widened further, however, pointing to an increasingly uneven recovery. The services PMI fell to 55.9 points from 56.2 points in April, while the manufacturing PMI fell to 44.6 points from 45.8 points. Economists had expected the services PMI to fall to 55.6 points and the manufacturing PMI to rise to 46.2 points. The resulting outperformance of services relative to manufacturing was the widest since January 2009. The survey has not yet previously signaled such a strong service sector expansion at a time of manufacturing decline.
The data also showed that new orders in the private sector rose only marginally and at the slowest rate for four months. Output growth across the region consequently exceeded growth of new orders to a degree not seen since early 2009. The relatively faster pace of output growth was again supported by companies fulfilling orders placed in prior months, causing backlogs of work to fall at an increased rate, albeit exclusively in manufacturing (though service sector backlogs rose only very modestly). Meanwhile, private sector employment growth was weaker than April but still the second-highest recorded over the past 11 months. As for inflation, average prices charged for goods and services rose at the slowest rate for 25 months in May, but the growth rate remained high by historical standards.