Eurozone economy grows

Berlin – The eurozone economy chalked up its best year in a decade in 2017, with a "stellar end" in December boosted by robust growth in Germany, according to a key indicator released on Thursday.

The London-based IHS Markit research group said its closely watched purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the manufacturing and services sectors in the 19-member eurozone climbed from 57.5 in November to 58.1 last month, with German PMI hitting an 80-month high in December.

Growth despite rising political uncertainty

"A stellar end to 2017 for the eurozone rounded off the best year for over a decade, continuing to confound widely held fears that rising political uncertainty would curb economic growth," said IHS Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.

At 56.4, the average PMI reading for 2017 was the highest annual trend since 2006, with the PMI for the currency bloc's manufacturing sector increasing at its fastest pace in more than two decades, IHS Markit said.

Business optimism is at record high in Germany, the group said, with official figures to be released on January 11 expected to show Europe's biggest economy expanding in 2017 at its fastest rate in six years.

Based on a survey of about 5,000 companies, the PMI data pointed to the eurozone expanding by a hefty 0.8 per cent in the final quarter of last year, said Williamson, "with no sign of momentum being lost as we move into 2018."

With both orders and backlogs of uncompleted work rising sharply, hiring is at a 17-year high, said IHS Markit.

"Optimism," the research group said, "about the outlook also turned higher in December."