Silver Lining: Euro Zone Factory Output Grows

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Output at euro zone factories rose greater than expected in the month of February on a jump in energy production, a sign of growing demand giving hope the currency bloc will return to growth this year.

Industrial production in the 17 countries using the euro was up 0.4 percent from January, data from the EU's statistics office Eurostat showed on Friday.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a rise of just 0.1 percent.

Three years of public debt crisis have suppressed consumer demand in the counties using the euro, as austerity cuts to bring budgets in line have led to reduced wages and job losses.

February's rise was fueled by an increase in energy production, with growth of 2.6 percent from January, after having fell during most of the last six months.

Eurostat also revised its energy production figure for January upward from a fall of 1.0 percent to a rise of 0.1 percent.

Manufacturing of consumer goods like cars, refrigerators, and mobile phones also grew, up 1.3 percent month on month in February.

Production in Europe's largest economy Germany was up 0.9 percent in February from the previous month, with France also up 0.8 percent. Italian production fell 0.8 percent.

Manufacturing from Germany, France, and Italy accounts for two-thirds of the bloc's output.

Not all of the data was positive. Factory production continued to fall compared to data from a year ago, with production down 3.1 percent from February 2012.

On an annual basis, Reuters-polled economists had expected a fall of 2.5 percent.

Eurostat also revised January's production figure to a fall of 0.6 percent from a previous fall of 0.4 percent.