Euro-Area Economy Ended Year With Fastest Growth Since 2011

  • Composite PMI rises 54.4 from 53.9, highest in 67 months
  • IHS Markit says soundness of recovery remains uncertain

The euro-area economy finished 2016 with the strongest momentum in more than 5 1/2 years, bolstering the region as it heads into a year of political uncertainty.

A composite Purchasing Managers’ Index climbed to 54.4 in December from 53.9 in November, IHS Markit said on Wednesday. That’s the highest in 67 months and above a Dec. 15 estimate.

Strength in both the manufacturing and service sectors was due in part to a weaker euro, London-based Markit said in a statement. Economic expansion was signaled across the “big-four” nations, with Spain leading the way, followed closely by Germany.

Signs of faster growth could provide solid ground to the 19-nation economy as it heads into another year of potentially tumultuous politics. The European Central Bank decided in December to prolong its asset-purchase program through the end of 2017 amid lackluster underlying inflation and uncertainty from looming national elections and beginning negotiations on the terms of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

Since that decision, price pressures have risen alongside a surge in the cost of energy. Germany on Tuesday reported an inflation rate of 1.7 percent for December, above economist estimates and close to the ECB’s target. Markit said input costs for the euro-area surged last month to the highest level since mid-2011.

Eurostat will release consumer-price data for the euro area at 11 a.m. in Luxembourg.

“The final PMI data signal an even stronger end to 2016 than the preliminary flash numbers, though whether this provides a much-needed springboard for the euro area’s recovery to gain further momentum in 2017 remains very uncertain,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit. “ Much depends on political events over the course of the next year.”

The euro rose after French and German data were published and extended gains following the euro-area report. The single currency traded at $1.0443 at 10:27 a.m. Frankfurt time.

A gauge for services activity slipped less than initially reported in December, Markit said. A PMI for manufacturing jumped to the highest level since April 2011, according to a Jan. 2 report.

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