In January, both eurozone manufacturing and services PMI extended their rebound and even surprised on the upside of expectations. Euro zone manufacturing PMI rose for a second straight month, from 46.9 to 48.7, while only a marginal increase was expected (to 47.3). National data show that German manufacturing PMI jumped back above 50 (to 50.9), for the first time in three months, while French manufacturing PMI weakened slightly (from 48.9 to 48.5), in line with expectations. The breakdown of the manufacturing sector shows that output picked up from 47.1 to 50.0, hitting a six-month high. New orders picked up somewhat, but from low levels and continued to contract in January. Employment in the manufacturing sector rose from 49.9 to 50.5, expanding for the first time in three months. According to the first estimate, euro zone services PMI increased for a third consecutive month (from 48.8 to 50.5), while a softer jump was expected (to 49.0).
For the first time in five months, activity in the services sector grew in January. National details show that both in Germany (54.5 from 52.4) and France (51.7 from 50.3) activity in the services sector gathered pace. Also the outlook looks encouraging as business expectations rose from 53.6 to 56.0. Overall, the composite index rebounded strongly, from 48.3 to 50.4, expanding for the first time in five mnths. Contrary to the headline figures, slightly disappointing was the overall mployment index, which declined for the first time since April 2010. The euro zone composite PMI improved for a third consecutive month in January, which is often seen as a change in the trend. The recovery is however led by the core counties, while the peripherals are mostly bottoming out at low levels. According to Markit, the euro zone economy contracted by 0.5% - 0.6% Q/Q in the last quarter of 2011, but the PMI’s indicate that the recovery is coming sooner than most had expected, raising expectations that the recession in the euro zone will only be mild.
After a temporary pick-up in October, euro zone industrial new orders fell back again in November. The order data are however outdated and only confirm the weakness at that time seen in the confidence indicators. Since then however, business climate improved significantly, which will hopefully lead to some improvement in the hard data in the coming months.