© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Packs of 20-euro notes are seen at the Bank of Portugal fortified complex in Carregado, Alenquer, Portugal, May 17, 2022. Picture taken May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone economic sentiment defied market expectations for another slight improvement and deteriorated in March, pulled down by a sharp decline in optimism in the two main sectors of the economy – industry and services, data showed on Thursday.

The European Commission’s monthly survey showed economic sentiment in the 20 countries sharing the euro eased to 99.3 points in March from a downwardly revised 99.6 in February.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected an improvement to 99.8 points.

Sentiment in industry slumped much more than expected to -0.2 from 0.4 in February. In services, the biggest sector of the euro zone economy, optimism eased to 9.4 from 9.5 in February against expectations of a rise to 10.3.

Inflation expectations among consumers, having steadily declined since September, rebounded again to 18.9 points in March from 17.7 in February, the Commission survey showed. But selling price expectations among manufacturers fell sharply to 18.7 in March from 23.5 in February.

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