In the 16 countries sharing the euro, business activity picked up slightly in March although from depressed levels, according to a new survey on March 24. The eurozone's purchasing managers' index (PMI), compiled by data and research group Markit, rose to 37.6 points from 36.2 points in February.
The outcome marked the tenth month in a row that the index had come in below the key 50-point threshold that indicates contracting activity in the private sector as the European economies endure a deep recession.
Meanwhile, the struggling manufacturing sector saw an improvement, with its index rising to 33.2 points from 30.8.
The separate PMI index for the eurozone's vast service sector also gained some ground, rising to 40.1 points from 39.2 in February.
"March's rise ... is an encouraging sign, but with the index close to its record low, output looks set to continue to contract sharply in first quarter," said Ben May at consultants Capital Economics.
Economist Marco Valli at Unicredit said the PMI survey might just mark a trough in the cycle, although the risks were high that worse may still come. "After some volatility at the begin. The March figures signal that momentum has 'improved' somewhat at the end of the first quarter. Growth risks continue to be to the downside."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009