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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone industrial output declined slightly in March for the second straight month, against market expectations of an increase, due a sharp drop of energy production, data released on Friday showed.
The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said industrial production in the 19-country single currency bloc fell by 0.1 percent from February, but rose by 1.9 percent year-on-year.
Both figures were lower than market expectations of increases of 0.3 percent in the month and of 2.3 percent from a year earlier.
The unexpected fall is, however, unlikely to change the growth outlook for the bloc at the start of the year, with preliminary estimates showing a healthy 0.5 percent rise in the first quarter.
This is mostly because the March drop was offset by upwardly revised data for February, when output dropped only by 0.1 percent instead of a previously estimated 0.3 percent fall. On the year, production went up by 1.4 percent in February, more than the 1.2 percent rise estimated by Eurostat a month ago.
The March monthly output decrease was due to a 3.2 percent decline in energy production, the only indicator that recorded a drop.
Output went up by 2.1 percent for non-durable consumer goods, such as canned food and clothing, after a 1.3 percent drop in February.
Factories also produced more durable consumer goods for a second consecutive month, with a rise of 0.9 percent, in a sign that firms expected consumers to spend more on expensive products, such as fridges and cars.
Output of intermediate goods also went up by 0.3 percent, while production of capital goods, such as machinery, increased by 0.2 percent.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop