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A punishing start to the year.

The eurozone’s construction sector suffered its biggest monthly contraction since 2013 in January – the second consecutive month of declines.

Output dropped by 2.3 per cent in January from December, and it was 6.2 per cent lower compared to January 2016, according to figures from Eurostat. The biggest monthly drops were recorded in Slovenia (-12.3 per cent), Belgium (-4.6 per cent) and Spain (-3.8 per cent) and could dampen expectations of a strong start to growth in the single currency area in the first quarter of 2017.

Separate figures on eurozone trade showed a €600m trade deficit as the pace of imports outstripped exports in January. The deficit compares with a surplus of €4.8bn recorded in the same month last year.

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