Feb.05 - The euro zone's battered economy is showing signs of recovery but the gulf between its two biggest members is widening, according to a survey that showed business optimism in the bloc at an eight-month high. Ciara Sutton reports.
48.6 is today's daily digit - it's Markit's gauge of business activity across the euro zone. It's still hovering below the magic 50 mark that signifies growth, but it has risen consistently for three months. Thousands of firms - from banks to restaurants - were surveyed and most haven't been this optimistic since last May. Germany even got its biggest one-month rise in four years. But it's not an even picture - the divide between the region's economies is growing. France plummeted to its lowest level in nearly four years - dropping below Italy and Spain. And that gap with Germany is a big concern, says Marikit's Chris Williamson (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARKIT'S CHRIS WILLIAMSON, SAYING: "The divergence with France is at a record high for the survey. France is contracting at a very steep rate, Italy and Spain seem to be holding their ground a bit, so it's a very diverse picture." Across the 17-nations, companies have also been reducing their work forces at the fastest pace in over three years. And unemployment in peripheral countries remains at record highs.