Covid-19 slows India’s services activity slightly in March: PMI report

Firms continued to bear elevated cost pressures but only passed some of it to consumers to stay competitive

Topics

Service PMI | Coronavirus | Coronavirus Vaccine


Reuters  | 
Bengaluru 

Activity in India’s dominant services industry expanded for the sixth consecutive month in March, supported by strong domestic demand, but some momentum was lost as authorities imposed fresh restrictions following a surge in coronavirus cases, a survey showed.

The results were broadly backed by a Reuters poll last week that predicted India’s economy would grow faster than previously expected this fiscal year but warned a resurgence of coronavirus cases could derail growth.

The Nikkei/IHS Markit Services Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 54.6 in March from 55.3 in February but held above the 50-mark separating growth from contraction.

“While the March results showed that service sector growth in India softened, rates of expansion for output and new business remained strong relative to the survey trend,” noted Pollyanna De Lima, economics associate director at IHS Markit.

“The elections supported the uptick in demand, but the Covid-19 pandemic and reduced footfall restricted the upturn.” A sub-index tracking new business was above 50 for the sixth consecutive month but eased slightly from February.

Subdued foreign demand for services meant export business declined again, although the fall was the shallowest since February last year – not long before the full impact of the pandemic hit.

This led to a reduction in headcount for the fourth month, indicating the labour market was still struggling even though the pace of contraction was marginal.

Despite the current challenges around Covid-19 infections, business expectations for the year-ahead remained high as increasing numbers of vaccines are administered.

“Service providers hope for an improvement in vaccine availability, which would curb the spread of the disease and support the economy,” De Lima added.

Firms continued to bear elevated cost pressures but only passed some of it to consumers to stay competitive. An input cost index was the second-highest since February 2013, only surpassed in the previous month.

But the Reserve Bank of India is not expected to raise interest rates this fiscal year despite high inflation as policymakers prioritise supporting growth for now amid the pressures caused by the pandemic.

The fall in both the headline services and manufacturing PMIs depressed the composite PMI from February’s four-month high of 57.3 to 56.0.

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.


We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor