Eurozone PMI survey 'shows underlying improvement'

Manufacturing helped drive the overall rise in business activity
Image caption Manufacturing helped drive the overall rise in business activity

Eurozone business activity grew at its fastest pace in more than two years in September, according to a closely-watched survey.

The Markit composite purchasing managers' index - which includes manufacturing and services - rose to 52.1 points, from 51.5 in August.

A number higher than 50 indicates growth.

"These surveys show a real underlying swell of improvement, " said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

"It's all looking very positive," he added.

The pace of growth beat average analyst expectations.

Business activity in Germany, Europe's largest economy, grew at its fastest rate for eight months, while in France, the bloc's second biggest economy, activity increased - albeit marginally - for the first time in more than a year and a half.

"It is particularly encouraging to see the business situation improved across the region," said Mr Williamson.

Manufacturing helped drive the overall rise in business activity, with the three months to September marking the sector's strongest quarter of growth for more than two years.

The data provides further evidence of the eurozone's exit from recession. The bloc's GDP grew by 0.3% in the second quarter of 2013.

Employment across the eurozone continued to fall, but saw its smallest drop for 18 months.

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi warned last week that the eurozone economy remained "fragile", and unemployment was "still far too high".

"It is reassuring that the rate of job losses eased to only a very modest pace, suggesting that employment could start rising again soon," Mr Williamson said.

Philip Shaw at Investec said the data suggested that the recovery in the eurozone economies was gaining some traction: "[The PMI numbers] are reasonably encouraging and suggest momentum is beginning to build, albeit slowly."

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