BRUSSELS: Eurozone business activity hit a seven-month high in February, extending gains despite concerns over the Greek debt crisis as the economy recovers from a soft patch, a key survey showed Friday.
Analysts broadly welcomed the closely-watched Markit Economics report after the economy had looked in real difficulty late last year, but some remained cautious on the outlook.
Markit Economics said its Composite Purchasing Managers Output Index (PMI) for the 19-nation single currency bloc jumped to 53.5 points from 52.6 in January, putting it well above the 50-points boom or bust line.
The PMI for the services sector, which accounts for about two-thirds of all economic activity, rose sharply to 53.9 points from 52.7 in January while manufacturing edged up to 51.1 from 51.
“There are mounting signs that eurozone economic activity really is now improving,” said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.
The report “reinforces our frequently stated belief that growth will surprise on the upside in 2015 and come in at 1.5 percent,” Archer added.
Earlier this month, the European Commission raised its 2015 eurozone growth forecast to 1.3 percent from the previous 1.1 percent.
Markit Economics chief economist Chris Williamson said the “surveys paint an upbeat picture of improving eurozone economic health.
“Undeterred by the ongoing Greek debt crisis, economic growth is gathering momentum and looks set to gain further traction in coming months.”
The figures suggested the eurozone economy was on course to grow at least 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year, he added.
The eurozone expanded a better-than-expected 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 after a 0.2 percent gain in the third.
Jessica Hinds at Capital Economics cautioned against getting carried away, saying the PMI report “points to further slow recovery for now.”
“It provides some reassurance that the region’s recovery may have continued in the first quarter of 2015 despite the ongoing crisis in Greece,” Hinds said in a research note.
“However, on the basis of past form, this is only consistent with quarterly growth of around 0.3 percent, no better than the fourth quarter, suggesting that the region’s economic recovery is still struggling to gain much momentum.”