Business activity in the 16 nations sharing the euro improved slightly, offering a rare ray of light for the recession-hit economy, according to a wide watched survey. The eurozone's purchasing managers' index (PMI) ticked higher to 38.5 points in January from a record low of 38.2 in December.
The figure, marking the first rise in five months but still below the 50-point threshold indicating contraction, beat economists' estimates for a fall to 37.4 points.
"However, the rise in the index merely signalled a modest easing in the rate of contraction from the record pace seen in December, suggesting a continued steep rate of decline," the report said.
The index for activity in the eurozone's vast services sector also gained ground, edging up to 42.5 points from 42.1 in December while manufacturing activity rose to 34.5 from 33.9 in December.
Economists warned that despite the improvement, the eurozone economy was far from being out of the woods. "The small rise in January's eurozone PMI surveys is on the face of it mildly encouraging," said Ben May at consultants Capital Economics. "Nonetheless, with the surveys still at dismally low levels, the near-term outlook for activity remains pretty dreadful."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009