March 24 - China's huge manufacturing engine may have had a poor start to 2014 but as Hayley Platt reports a return to growth in French business activity this month points to a more solid, broad-based recovery in the euro zone economy.
China's manufacturing engine may have had a poor start to 2014 but Europe's recovery is continuing. The manufacturing and services sectors are growing at almost the same pace as February's near three year high. Unusually it was Germany's growth which eased in March whilst France bounced back - it's long-suffering private sector growing for the first time in five months. Markit's Rob Dobson. SOUNDBITE: Rob Dobson, chief economist, Markit, saying (English): "France is back and this a positive. This is what we've been looking for and the outlook for the euro zone is looking a lot better. New orders strengthening faster since May 2011. Backlogs, capacity starting to get much fuller and service providers becoming much more confident, so overall a good set of figures." New business across the euro zone also grew at it's fastest rate in almost three years, offering hope of much needed new jobs. Unemployment in the region currently stands at 12 percent. SOUNDBITE: Rob Dobson, chief economist, Markit, saying (English): "We're seeing some signs that the jobs market coming back already. Latest data we're showing employment rising for the second successive month up only marginally as companies are continuing to look to boost their productivity and improve their competitiveness but we're starting to see that filtering into the labour market now and hopefully that will have a knock on effect." Policymakers have one small worry. Inflation is currently at 0.7 percent, well below the ECB's target of 2 percent. The latest figures suggest firms have been cutting prices to sell more goods. And that may be masking how much consumers are actually spending. ///