Europe News

Weak euro boosts euro zone businesses

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Euro zone business activity continued to expand in February, although at a slower rate than expected, according to a closely-watched survey of the region's services and manufacturing sectors.

The final composite reading of Markit's purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 53.3 in February, slightly below a preliminary reading of 53.5.

However it marked a rise from January's reading of 52.6, as a weaker euro continued to give businesses in the region a boost. The 50-point mark separates expansion from contraction.

'Big four' in focus

For the first time since April 2014, economic activity across each of the euro zone economies expanded, Markit said in a note accompanying the data.

"By nation, output growth was again led by Ireland and Spain. The rate of expansion in economic activity also accelerated to a four-month high in Germany, while Italy saw output rise for the second month running (albeit at a slower pace)," the group said.

Another key development from the February surveys was that France's business activity started to expand. The region's second-largest economy saw the strongest growth of both output and new business since August 2011.

Markit's Chief Economist, Chris Williamson, said there were, "clear signs of the euro zone economy reviving in February, with stronger inflows of new business and rising business confidence suggesting growth should continue to pick up in March."

"The increasingly positive survey data put the region's GDP on course to grow by 0.3 percent in the first quarter," he added.

The index's findings come after data released earlier this week showed that deflation eased in the euro zone in February, as the 19-country region awaits the European Central Bank's (ECB) quantitative easing (QE) program. Unemployment also fell, data revealed this week, to 11.2 percent in January.

Howard Archer, chief U.K. and European economist a IHS Global Insight, said the evidence suggested that very low oil prices, a markedly weaker euro and the ECB's stimulative measures, "are increasingly feeding through to lift economic activity."

"While the euro zone still has significant underlying problems, we believe it should be able to achieve GDP growth of 1.6 percent this year, which would be up from 0.9 percent in 2014," he said in a note Wednesday.