Even as construction output increased 0.7 percent in the quarter, the services industry contracted for the first time in more than 2 1/2 years and manufacturing output stagnated following a 0.3 percent contraction in the preceding three-month period. Exports shrank for a third consecutive quarter and corporate investments fell 0.7 percent, the biggest contraction in seven quarters.
While Belgian business confidence has improved for three straight months because of rising demand prospects, consumer sentiment dropped to the lowest level in almost three years in February on the outlook for employment and the economy.
National employment fell for the first time in more than two years in the fourth quarter, with about 4.63 million people working, the National Bank said today.
The nation’s economy will contract 0.1 percent this year, the central bank forecast on Feb. 15, and the government is seeking an additional 2 billion euros of spending cuts or tax increases to meet its target for a budget deficit of 2.8 percent of gross domestic product this year.