French Economy Grows Fastest Since 2011 as Services Strengthen

  • Composite PMI rises to 56.2 in February from 54.1 in January
  • Pace of activity in manufacturing remained unchanged

A pickup in services in February propelled French private-sector growth to the fastest pace in almost six years.

A composite Purchasing Managers’ Index climbed to 56.2 from 54.1 in January, IHS Markit said on Tuesday. That’s the eighth consecutive reading above the 50 mark that divides expansion from contraction and above an economist estimate for 53.8. A gauge for services rose to the highest level since mid-2011, while a measure for manufacturing was unchanged.

Source: IHS Markit

Source: IHS Markit

“Service providers remained the driver of overall growth, as evidenced by further sharp expansions in new orders and employment, the sharpest in five-and-a-half years in each case,” said Alex Gill, an economist at the London-based company. “The picture was also positive for manufacturers, albeit slightly less rosy. Rates of increase in client demand and staffing numbers eased from January as the sector continues to be weighed down by marked cost pressures.”

France’s economic recovery has lagged that of the euro zone in recent years, leaving unemployment stuck at about 10 percent and hampering the ability of President Francois Hollande to trim the budget deficit. The French leader is the first in half a century not to seek re-election after one term. The country will vote in April and May this year.

Even so, private-sector companies were the most optimistic in over four-and-a-half years regarding the outlook for the next 12 months, IHS Markit said, citing favorable economic conditions and positive sales forecasts.

Germany’s composite PMI is forecast to remain unchanged at 54.8, and a measure for the euro area probably fell slightly to 54.3 from 54.4. Those reports are due at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Frankfurt time, respectively.

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