German business confidence fell in March to its lowest level since August 2009, a closely-watched survey showed Thursday, as firms reckon with the likely economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Falling 8.3 points month-on-month to 87.7 points in a preliminary reading, the Ifo economic institute's monthly barometer based on a survey of 9,000 firms suffered its worst tumble since 1991.
"The German economy is pitching into a recession," Ifo chief Clemens Fuest said in a statement.
Berlin has announced massive measures to support the economy through the virus outbreak, including expanding top-up pay for workers placed on shorter hours, 550 billion euros in guarantees for business loans and a suspension of legal obligations to file for bankruptcy.
"No healthy company, no (worker) should find themselves in trouble," economy minister Peter Altmaier said last week.
But with measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak bringing massive restrictions to everday life and economic activity, confidence among companies in manufacturing, services and retail all fell sharply, Ifo found, although construction ebbed only slightly.
In a first-of-its-kind television address to the German public late Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that Berlin "will do everything it can to cushion the economic impact and preserve jobs."