BRUSSELS — Industrial output in the 17-nation eurozone showed a sharp turnaround in December, gaining 0.7% compared with activity in November when it fell a revised 0.7%, official data showed Wednesday.

This was the first month-on-month growth registered since August when output rose 0.8% but analysts cautioned against reading too much into the data.

The increase "needs to be kept into perspective," said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.

"The 0.7% month-on-month expansion only reversed November’s (upwardly revised) fall in production while output had also fallen sharply in October (by 1.0%) and September (by 2.3%)," Archer said.

For the full 27-member European Union, industrial output in December was up 0.5% from November when it dropped 0.6%, the Eurostat statistics agency said.

Compared with December 2011, industrial production in the eurozone fell 2.4% while the EU dropped 2.3%, both much better than in November if still in negative territory.

For 2012 as a whole, eurozone industrial output was off 2.4% with the EU down 2.1%.

Among the major economies, Germany rose 0.8% in December compared with November, France and Spain were flat, and Britain put on 1.1%.

The stand-out performer was Ireland which showed an increase in industrial output of 8.5% in December after just 0.2% in November although its figures have been volatile.

Archer said the figures overall suggested that the eurozone economy contracted 0.4% in the three months to December compared with the third quarter the previous year.

"While it looks likely that Eurozone manufacturing activity turned the corner late in 2012, a return to growth in the first quarter of 2013 is far from guaranteed," he said.

ING Bank was more positive, saying the data "at least shows that the European manufacturing sector is benefitting from the gradually enfolding worldwide recovery.”

ING noted, however, the importance of exports to future growth and highlighted concerns on that front stoked by recent gains in the euro amid talk of global currency wars following Japan's moves to talk down the yen.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013