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Key services sector boost for euro zone

London, January 25, 2012

The euro zone may escape recession thanks to a surprise upturn in the service sector this month but the overall economy is still struggling to gain any traction outside Germany and to a lesser extent France, surveys showed yesterday.

Markit's Flash Euro Zone Purchasing Managers' Composite Index (PMI), a reliable indicator of overall economic performance, showed the euro zone economy grew in January for the first time since August, confounding forecasts for a contraction.

Survey compiler Markit said that if sustained, the data pointed to no growth in the first quarter - but no contraction either.

Germany's service sector expanded at its fastest pace in seven months in January - far quicker than expected - while manufacturing business grew for the first time in four months, according to a PMI survey.

France's service sector grew at its fastest pace since August, but manufacturing shrank for the sixth straight month. Business activity also contracted across the rest of the 17-member bloc, where demand has been hit by tough austerity measures and waning confidence as the region struggled to contain its debt crisis.

The euro zone composite PMI, jumped to 50.4 from 48.3 in December, its highest in four months, and breaking above the 50 level that marks growth in activity. The reading easily beat the highest forecast of 49.5 in a Reuters poll and a median prediction of 48.5.

'The numbers are very encouraging. We're just seeing more and more evidence that ... things in the euro zone, or at the very least in the core, are bottoming out,' said Alan Clarke, economist at Scotiabank.

A Reuters poll last week predicted the euro zone would be mired in a mild recession until the second half of this year, shrinking by around 0.3 per cent for 2012 as a whole.

While yesterday's data suggests the economy is doing slightly better than expected it is still very weak outside the core.

'They beat expectations, but the manufacturing sector appears to be contracting and services is broadly flat,' said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.

'What this seems to be telling us is that the economy is struggling to gain any traction outside of Germany.'-Reuters




Tags: services | Euro zone | boost |

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