BERLIN, Apr 7 (Reuters) – German private sector growth accelerated in March to its highest level in more than three years as the services sector performed surprisingly well despite prolonged coronavirus restrictions and a third wave of infections, a survey showed Wednesday.

IHS Markit’s final purchasing managers index (PMI) for services rose to 51.5 last month, down from 45.7 in February.

The figure was better than the preliminary value of 50.8 and was the first month since September above the 50.0 mark that indicates growth.

Phil Smith, an economist at IHS Markit, said the improvement was mainly due to loosening of restrictions for some businesses and services, although authorities extended other restrictions in April.

Better-than-expected performance in services contributed to IHS Markit’s composite PMI reaching 57.3 in March, down from 51.1 in February.

Data from another PMI survey released last week showed German factory activity growing at the fastest pace ever recorded in March, thanks to increased demand from the United States and China.

However, growth prospects for Europe’s largest economy remain clouded by a more contagious variant of the virus and the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, which could force authorities to tighten restrictions again in the coming weeks. .

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told Reuters on Tuesday that the German economy will likely fall short of the central bank’s growth projection of 3% this year as restrictions related to the pandemic weigh on business activity.

(Information from Michael Nienaber, edited by John Stonestreet, translated by Tomás Cobos)

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