Eurozone private sector returned to growth in March underpinned by a record increase in manufacturing output, final survey data from IHS Markit showed on Wednesday.

The final composite output index rose to 53.2 in March from 48.8 in February. The score was also above the flash estimate of 52.5.

The second-fastest increase in private sector output in two-and-a-half years was driven by a surge in manufacturing production, the strongest in nearly 24 years of data collection.

Meanwhile, services output fell again but at the slowest rate in the current seven-month sequence of contraction. The final services Purchasing Managers’ Index came in at 49.6, up from 45.7 a month ago. The flash reading was 48.8.

The survey indicates that the economy has weathered recent lockdowns far better than many had expected, thanks to resurgent manufacturing growth and signs that social distancing and mobility restrictions are having far less of an impact on service sector businesses than seen this time last year, said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

The improved activity picture was broadly seen across the Eurozone. Growth was led by Germany, where a resurgent manufacturing economy helped drive the country’s best overall activity performance in just over three years.

Germany’s final composite output index rose notably to 57.3 from 51.1 in the prior month and above the flash 56.8. At the same time, the services PMI improved to 51.5 from 45.7. The flash score was 50.8.

France private sector stabilized in March ending a six-month sequence of contraction. The final composite PMI climbed to 50.0 from 47.0 in the previous month. This was above the initial estimate of 49.5. The services PMI came in at 48.2, up from 45.6 in February and the flash 47.8.

Italy’s private sector grew at the fastest pace since July last year. The composite output index improved to 51.9 from 51.4 in February. Meanwhile, the services PMI fell to 48.6 from 48.8 in February. Economists had forecast the index to improve to 49.0.

Spain’s private sector economy returned to growth in March as a surge in manufacturing output was accompanied by a noticeable easing of service sector activity contraction. The composite output index improved to 50.1 from 45.1 in February. The services PMI registered 48.1 in March, up from 43.1 in February.

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