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Belgian business confidence slips unexpectedly
Belgian business confidence, a bellwether for the euro zone, unexpectedly slipped in June, implying its economy is in stagnation at best and not keeping up with recovering neighbour Germany, reports Reuters. The business confidence index, often referred to as the leading indicator, fell to -12.8 from -12.4 in May as business chiefs in all sectors except trade became more pessimistic, the central Bank said on Monday. The figure undershot a Reuters poll of 11 economists which had produced a median forecast of -11.8. The Belgian number comes hours after the closely watched German Ifo business climate index, which edged up for a second straight month in June. Belgium, the euro zone's sixth-biggest economy and one of its most open, exports a large number of semi-finished goods to the region's most powerful economy, Germany, which has been more resilient than most of the rest of Europe. Belgium's economy stagnated in the first three months of this year. It marked a fourth consecutive quarter of contraction or stagnation since the first quarter of 2012, when growth was just 0.1%. Entrepreneurs in the business-related services sector became more pessimistic driven by a more negative view of current activities. Sentiment among manufacturing chiefs slipped, with inventories seen higher and both employment and demand expectations deteriorating, although the view of order books improved. By contrast, business chiefs in the volatile trade sector, including retailers, were less negative about employment and demand expectations, allowing sentiment to edge up after four months of decline.