[PARIS] French business activity grew faster than expected this month to reach the fastest pace in 15 months as a strong service sector helped offset weakness in manufacturing, a survey showed on Friday.
Data compiler IHS Markit said its flash composite purchasing managers index rose to 53.3 in September from 51.9 in August, defying economists' average forecast for a fall back to 51.4.
The reading, the strongest since June 2015, lifted the index further above the key 50-point level dividing an expansion in activity from a contraction.
"The data raise hopes of a firmer GDP print for the third quarter after growth ground to a halt in the second quarter," IHS Markit economist Jack Kennedy said.
Boosted by an improvement in the flow of new business, the service sector saw its index also rise to a 15-month high of 54.1 from 52.3 in August, easily beating expectations for 52.0.
The PMI for the manufacturing sector meanwhile rose to 49.5 from 48.3 in August, beating expectations for 48.4 but still not improving enough to tip into expansion mode.
A survey from the Insee statistics agency showed a broad-based improvement in business confidence this month with both the services and industrial sectors perking up.