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German private sector grows faster in January: PMI

[BERLIN] Germany's private sector expanded faster in January as companies received new orders and took on staff, a survey showed on Wednesday, suggesting Europe's largest economy may be gaining momentum in early 2015.

Markit's final composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which tracks activity in the manufacturing and services sectors accounting for more than two-thirds of the economy, rose to a three-month-high of 53.5 from 52.0 in December.

That was above the 50 mark dividing growth from contraction and was also higher than a preliminary reading of 52.6.

"January's survey results send positive signals all around, with service sector activity quickening and new orders returning to growth," Markit economist Oliver Kolodseike said.

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The index for the service sector rose to 54.0 from 52.1 in December - higher than the preliminary estimate of 52.7.

The combination of a strengthening economy, increased new business and securing new clients boosted confidence in the service sector to its highest level since April 2011, the survey showed.

Private sector employment levels rose solidly despite the introduction of a national minimum wage of 8.50 euros an hour in January, and companies reported plenty of scope to absorb further increases in demand.

"Composite PMI data meanwhile present welcome signs of a German economy that looks set to recover some of the ground it had lost at the end of last year," Mr Kolodseike added.

The economy grew by 1.5 per cent in 2014 and the government expects it to expand at the same rate in 2015.