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Eurozone industrial output edges up in February: Eurostat

BRUSSELS, Belgium--Eurozone industrial output edged higher in February, official data showed Monday, in line with recent data showing a very modest economic recovery in the single currency bloc.

The activity of the industrial sector is closed watched in the eurozone where there is deep concern in some countries about the low competitiveness of industry, particularly on export markets.

Industrial output in the 18-nation eurozone rose 0.2 percent compared with the level in January when it was flat, the Eurostat statistics agency said.

The January outcome was originally given as a fall of 0.2 percent.

Compared with February 2013, eurozone industrial output was up 1.7 percent while the EU rose 2.1 percent.

Industrial production figures are volatile but analysts said Monday's figures were consistent with a slow pick-up in an economy still struggling for traction after a record 18-month recession ended in second quarter 2013.

Capital Economics said the report “confirmed that the sector has made a weak start to 2014 and highlighted the slow and fragile recovery both in industry and in the eurozone economy as a whole.”

The 0.2-percent gain in February was in line with forecasts but “is still disappointing given that production declined in December and was stable in January,” it said.

While there “are signs that the industrial sector may start to fare slightly better in the months ahead,” it said, “lackluster consumer demand ... and a strong euro suggest that any recovery is likely to remain very sluggish.”

In Paris on Monday, the governor of the Bank of France Christian Noyer, who sits on the policy council of the European Central Bank, said that the euro was “abnormally strong” given the state of the economic cycle in the eurozone and given that the eurozone was lagging behind other regions in terms of growth.

Separately the new French Finance Minister Michel Sapin repeated the line of the new French government that the euro was too strong and this was a handicap for growth in France.

Eurostat said that in the full 28-member European Union, industrial output gained 0.4 percent in February, after a rise of 0.2 percent in January.

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