Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 10:52 UK

EU service sector confidence 'up'

Shoppers in Berlin
There are signs of increased optimism across the service sector

Confidence among service sector firms across the eurozone has risen to a 15-month high, a survey has claimed.

Led by hopes that the worst of the recession may be over, Markit's services business expectations index rose to 59.1 in May from April's 54.4.

With any number above 50 indicating that more firms are confident than not about the future, there are now growing signs of optimism over the economy.

The survey also found the level of service sector activity rose in May.

Italian boost

While the 44.8 reading for the eurozone services purchasing managers index was still below 50, and therefore indicating continuing overall contraction, it was a seven-month high, and up from 43.8 in April.

The eurozone service sector remains under serious pressure
Howard Archer, IHS Global Insight

The monthly survey covers the 16 nations that share the euro.

Business confidence was strongest in Italy, which it has reached a 27-month high. It was also at a 16-month high in Germany, and 12-month high in France.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, cautioned that while the survey's findings were pleasing, the eurozone economy still remained weak.

"Indeed, the eurozone service sector remains under serious pressure from weak consumer expenditure, reduced business spending, financial sector problems, housing market slowdowns in a number of countries, and contracting activity in key export markets," he said.

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