Italy provided a rare black spot in an otherwise glowing set of surveys on the state of the eurozone’s manufacturing industry, with a series of closely-watched polls suggesting conditions across the continent ended the year in their healthiest state since before the single currency was established.
The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for the eurozone as a whole came in at 60.6 in December, its strongest level since the survey began in mid-1997 and confirming a flash estimate released late last month.
Growth was broad-based across the continent, with survey-record highs in Austria, Germany and Ireland, while even Greece reported its best results in nine and a half years.
Italy provided the closest to a disappointing figure, however, with a result of 57.4 down from 58.3 in November and below a consensus forecast of 58.5. Still, the fact that a reading of 57.4 could now be considered weak highlights the extent of the turnround across the eurozone and Italy in particular over the last 12 months.
Any figure above 50 indicates expansion over the month. The currency area enjoyed a much stronger year than most economists had expected throughout 2017, with the healthy growth now expected to continue into the new year.
Chris Williamson, IHS Markit chief business economist, said: Forward-looking indicators bode well for the New Year: new orders rose at a near-record pace, while purchasing growth hit a new peak as firms readied themselves for higher production. Meanwhile, job creation was maintained at November’s record pace. Perhaps most encouraging of all is the extent to which the strongest upturn is being recorded for producers of investment goods such as plant and machinery, which highlights the upswing in business investment. Higher investment should help boost productivity and profits, and therefore enhance the sustainability of the upturn.