October 24, 2019 / 7:33 AM / 22 days ago

French business activity firmer than expected in October: PMI

FILE PHOTO: The financial district of La Defense is seen during sunset near Paris, France, September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

PARIS (Reuters) - French business activity picked up more than expected in October, boosted mainly by a firmer service sector but also by resilient manufacturing, a monthly survey showed on Thursday.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its preliminary composite purchasing managers index rose to 52.6 points from 50.8 last month, topping economists’ average estimate for 51.0.

The unexpectedly strong improvement brought the index further away from the key 50-point threshold, demarcating an expansion from a contraction in business.

The improvement was driven by the dominant service sector where the index rose to 52.9 from 51.1, easily beating expectations for 51.6.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector, which is more exposed to the fortunes of international trade, improved unexpectedly, rising to 50.5 from 50.1 and defying economists’ expectations for a retreat to 50.3.

The service sector saw a pick up in new business, in a sign of firm demand in the domestic French economy, which has so far held up well despite the global slowdown in the face of international trade tensions.

“The data are consistent with the continuation of solid gains in both official economic output and employment heading into the end of the year,” IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.

The euro zone’s second-biggest economy has managed to maintain a largely steady growth rate so far this year thanks to an improving labor market and government measures like tax breaks to boost households’ income after a series of violent protests.

However, the upbeat PMI data contrasted with a separate survey from the INSEE official statistics agency, which found on Wednesday that industry morale fell to its lowest level this month since March 2015.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Toby Chopra

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