LONDON (Reuters) - Euro zone factory activity grew slightly last month as companies kept slashing prices, but a weakened currency did little to help drive new orders from abroad, a survey showed on Monday.
“Euro zone manufacturing showed signs of pulling out of the doldrums at the start of the year, but the rate of expansion remained disappointingly meager, vindicating the ECB’s decision to take drastic action,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compiler Markit.
The survey’s results were mostly collected before the European Central Bank announced a near-trillion euro quantitative easing program as part of its bid to revive inflation and drive up growth.
Markit’s final January manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was 51.0, in line with an earlier flash reading.
Although it was a six-month high, it was only just above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction. In December the index came in at 50.6.
Firms cut prices in January at the steepest rate since mid-2013. Data on Friday showed prices fell at a record-equaling 0.6 percent across the 19 nations using the euro in January.
The euro has fallen more than 6 percent so far this year, which will make the bloc’s goods cheaper to outsiders, but new export orders in January picked up at a weaker pace than in December. An export orders subindex, which includes orders between countries within the currency union, stood at 50.7, in line with the flash reading but well below December’s 51.6.
Earlier data from Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, showed factory growth was slower than previously thought there. In France, the bloc’s second biggest economy, activity shrank for the ninth month.
Editing by Hugh Lawson