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Euro zone business activity lifts slightly

Business activity in the euro zone accelerated slightly in December, a key survey shows, but not enough to lift wider economic worries with powerhouse Germany sluggish and France in a slowdown. 

Markit Economics said its Composite Purchasing Managers Output Index for the euro zone rose marginally to 51.7 points in December from 51.1 points in November. 

The still-weak figure will do little to calm worries that the lack of activity in the euro zone is becoming a drag on growth worldwide. 

The closely watched survey came as official data showed that euro zone exports in October fell by 0.3% from the month before, with imports also lower, down 1.3%.

“The euro zone saw a slightly faster growth of business activity in December but still ended the year on a whimper rather than a roar,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. 

The Markit survey showed the second-lowest increase over the past year, “suggesting the euro area economy expanded by a mere 0.1% in the fourth quarter,” Williamson said. 

Officially, the euro zone economy grew just 0.2% in the third quarter, and the latest survey will add to worries that the situation is not about to change. 

Particularly worrying was weakness demonstrated in the euro zone’s biggest economies, with German businesses reporting the smallest increase in activity since June 2013. 

Activity in France, the currency bloc’s second biggest economy, fell for the eighth consecutive month. 

Outside those key countries however, the outlook was more upbeat, with activity rising at the fastest rate in five months. 

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