* March industrial output down by 10.7% vs Feb
* Industrial output down by 7.6% vs March 2019
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, May 11 (Reuters) - Slovenian March industrial output fell by 10.7% versus February due to the new coronavirus epidemic, the largest monthly fall since November 2008, the statistics office said on Monday.
Output was 7.6% lower than in March 2019, it added.
“The value of industrial production was the lowest since July 2017,” the office said.
Slovenia, which has so far confirmed 1,460 coronavirus cases and 102 deaths, in mid-March closed all schools, bars, restaurants, hotels, shops, apart from food and drug stores, and cancelled public transport.
Many companies reduced or suspended production amid lower demand and lack of parts, among them were some of Slovenia’s largest exporters including a local unit of French car maker Renault and a unit of Chinese household appliances maker Hisense.
Gradual lifting of the lockdown began on April 20, when a number of shops, including car shops and car service centres, reopened, while public transport resumed on Monday. Some pupils are due to return to schools on May 18.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry expects industrial output to fall further in April.
“In April we expect a 15%-fall of industrial output year-on-year, while output is expected to fall by 8% in the whole of 2020,” Bojan Ivanc, chief economist at the Chamber, told Reuters.
He said the Chamber expected Slovenia’s economy to shrink by 4.8% this year, which is more optimistic than the forecast of the government’s macroeconomic institute, UMAR, which sees GDP down by at least 8.1% in 2020.
Slovenia’s economy expanded by 2.4% in 2019. The country exports about 80% of its production, mostly to other EU states. Its main exports include cars, car parts, pharmaceutical products and household appliances.
On Friday, the statistics office said that exports increased by 6.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020. However, UMAR expects exports to fall by 19.4% this year. It sees exports rising by 10% next year, which would result GDP growth of 3.5% in 2021. (Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Alex Richardson)