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Euro zone economy ended 2014 on low note

One of the most important forward indicators for the euro zone economy came in weaker than expected for December, suggesting difficult times ahead.

Markit's final composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), published Tuesday, came in at 51.4lower than the earlier estimate of 51.7.

It suggests that the single currency region's economy grew by just 0.1 percent in the final quarter of 2014, according to Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compiler Markit.

ECB in focus
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The figures may increase pressure on Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), to launch a full-scale quantitative easing program to aid the euro zone recovery.

Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics, said December's downward revision for the euro zone-wide figures added to signs that the region's economy was barely expanding.

"With the price indices highlighting the threat of deflation, the ECB remains under intense pressure to increase its support," she wrote in a research note.

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Draghi launched a slew of stimulus measures during 2014 in an effort to boost the euro zone's economy and stave off the threat of deflation. The central bank will next decide on monetary policy on January 22.

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Business activity in Germany improved in December, however, fueling hopes that the euro zone's largest economy will post modest growth in the fourth quarter. However, new work at its service firms fell for the first time in 18 months, highlighting the fragility of the region's recovery.

France's composite PMI also rose in the month, to 49.7, although a reading below 50 indicates contraction. The country's reading for the services sector came in at 50.6, marking a slight expansion. However, "the overall health of the sector remains fragile amid a weak economic climate," according to Jack Kennedy, senior economist at Markit.

McKeown added that both the German and French surveys "remained consistent with only weak rates of expansion".

In Italy, business activity in the services sector fell for the first time in three months, and expectations for future activity were in the lowest since November 2013. The country's composite PMI fell to 49.4 in December, from 51.2 the previous month.

Spain offered a relative bright spot, however, with a services PMI reading of 54.3 in December, from November's 52.7.