Manufacturing activity in the 12-nation eurozone held stable in Feb., a key index showed Tue. offering the bloc a rare ray of hope after reports of declining confidence and higher jobless rates in France and Germany. The purchasing manufacturers' index (PMI) came to 51.9, suggesting an economy still in expansion. A reading under 50 signals contraction.
"One must be cautious because oil prices hit new highs earlier this week and the strengthening euro weighs on exports," analyst Laure Maillard of financial research group Ixis-Cib.
The index highlighted disparities in the eurozone, rising to 53.2 in France after 52.6 in Jan. but slipping to 52.2 from 52.4 in Germany, the largest eurozone economy. In Italy the index of manufacturing activity edged up to 50.6, remaining dangerously close to a reading signaling contraction.