Investing.com

Investing.com - Euro zone private sector activity grew more rapidly than initially estimated in February, according to data released on Wednesday, expanding at the fastest pace since June 2011.



The Markit euro zone composite purchasing managers’ index, which measures activity in the manufacturing and services sectors, was revised up to a 32-month high of 53.3 from a final reading of 52.9 in January. This was also ahead of the preliminary estimate of 51.7.



The growth was led by the region’s services sector, which expanded more quickly than first estimated. Manufacturing growth slowed slightly, but the goods producing sector continued to expand at a robust pace in February.



The euro area services PMI rose 52.6 in February, up from a final reading of 51.6 in January and the flash estimate of 51.7.



Germany’s composite PMI soared to a 33-month high but France’s fell to a two-month low of 47.7. The rate of growth in Italy’s service sector rose to an almost three year high last month.



The report also indicated that firms have begun to add jobs, pointing to a possible improvement in labor market conditions.



"Although only marginal, the increase in head counts was nevertheless the first improvement seen since 2011 and suggests that companies are gaining confidence about the sustainability of the upturn," said Chris Williamson, Markit''s chief economist.



Separately, Eurostat reported that retail sales in the euro zone rose 1.6% in January, easily surpassing expectations for a 0.8% gain, and were 1.3% higher from a year earlier, confounding expectations for a 0.4% decline.



Another report confirmed that the euro zone economy expanded 0.3% in the fourth quarter and grew 0.5% on a year-over-year basis.



The data eased pressure on the European Central Bank to tighten monetary policy at its upcoming meeting on Thursday, amid concerns over the subdued inflation outlook for the region.



Figures released last Friday showed the annual rate of inflation in the euro area was unchanged at 0.8% in February, well below the ECB''s target of just under 2.0%.



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