Fresh figures on business activity and retail sales in the 17-member currency area reinforce earlier signs of recession, even as the European Central Bank left its main interest rate unchanged at an all-time low of 1 percent.
"Data company Markit Economics Ltd. said its composite purchasing managers' index for the euro zone fell to 49.1 in March from 49.3 in February. But the month-to-month index, which measures business activity, did show some improvement: The average reading over the first three months of this year was 49.6, up from 47.2 for the fourth quarter of 2011.
"Chris Williamson, chief economist for Markit, said the PMI data "indicate that the region has slipped back into a technical recession ."
"With the exception of a marginal expansion seen in January, the economy has been in continual decline since last September," he said."