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News : EU Economy Last Updated: Mar 5, 2014 - 9:33 AM

Upturn in Eurozone services sector extended to seven months in February
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Mar 5, 2014 - 9:31 AM

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The upturn in the Eurozone services sector extended to seven months in February. Business activity and new orders rose at accelerated rates which were the sharpest in the current sequence of recovery, as domestic markets improved in most of the nations covered. Companies also maintained a positive outlook, with business confidence staying close to January’s two-and-a-half year peak.

The Eurozone Services Business Activity Index rose to a 32-month high of 52.6 in February, up from 51.6 in January and above the earlier flash estimate of 51.7. All of the nations included in the survey made positive contributions to the upgrade of the final February index reading (compared with earlier flash data), with the largest shares provided by Italy and Germany.

Ireland recorded the steepest expansion of business activity for the twelfth month running, despite seeing its rate of increase ease to the lowest since last November. Germany was second-placed overall, with growth improving to a 32-month record. Italy returned to expansion following declines in the prior three months, and the recovery continued in Spain (albeit at a slower pace).

Markit said France was the only nation to report a contraction in business activity. New business also fell again, having improved only once in the past two years (September 2013), mainly reflecting weak demand in the French domestic market.

Service sector employment was broadly unchanged in February. Stronger job creation in Germany and Ireland was offset by accelerated losses in France and Italy and a return to cuts in Spain.

A number of firms indicated that payroll headcounts had been reduced in order to control costs in light of strong competition. This reflected the ongoing discounts many firms were offering to stimulate new business, as highlighted by average selling prices falling again in February. Output charges decreased in France, Italy, Spain and Ireland, but continued to rise in Germany.

Average input prices rose again in February, with increases signalled in all of the nations covered. However, the overall rate of inflation slowed since January and remained below the average for the current sequence of increases.

The Eurozone Services PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) is produced by Markit and is based on original survey data collected from a representative panel of around 2,000 private service sector firms. National data are included for Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Republic of Ireland. These countries together account for an estimated 78% of Eurozone private sector services output.

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