BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone factory output failed to rise as expected in December as a sharp reverse in Ireland and declines in a number of mostly peripheral states erased gains in Germany, France and Italy.
Industrial production in the 18 countries sharing the euro was unchanged in December, following small gains in the previous three months, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday.
That was worse than the 0.2 percent reading expected by economists in a Reuters poll. Year-on-year, production was down 0.2 percent.
Ireland's 12.4 percent month-on-month decline was the stand-out figure, although its roaring economy of recent months meant it was still 18.2 percent higher year-on-year.
Elsewhere, more modest declines were registered in Estonia, Finland, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Production in the bloc's three largest economies, Germany, France and Italy, rose in December.
Fourth-quarter economic growth data for the euro zone is due on Friday, with signs that the bloc continued the sluggish 0.2 percent growth of the previous quarter.
By sectors, factory output of durable consumer goods, such as televisions or washing machines, rose 2.3 percent during December.
Intermediate goods increased by 1.1 percent and energy 1.0 percent, the latter after two months of declines linked to falling world oil prices.
Capital goods, or machinery used to make other machinery and a sign of future demand, rose 0.2 percent after a 0.3 percent decline in November.
Output of non-durable consumer goods, such as food, fell 1.8 percent.
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robin Emmott