Italy services sector growth strengthens in December: PMI

FILE PHOTO: An old Moka machine is displayed in a cafe in Rome, Italy October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s services sector grew for a seventh month running in December, with new business continuing to pick up, a survey showed on Monday, contrasting sharply with a long-running contraction in manufacturing.

The IHS Markit Business Activity Index for services rose to 51.1 from 50.4 in November, just above the 51.0 consensus forecast of nine analysts polled by Reuters and well clear of the 50 threshold that separates growth from contraction.

The sub-index for new business in the services sector rose to 51.6 from 50.8.

IHS Markit’s sister survey for manufacturing, published last Thursday, showed activity contracting for a 15th month running in December, and at the steepest rate for almost seven years, suggesting the euro zone’s third-largest economy will continue to struggle in the near term.

Thursday’s data weighed heavily on the composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) which combines services and manufacturing. It fell for a second successive month to 49.3 in December from 49.6 in November, IHS Markit said.

The government of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party forecasts 2019 economic growth of just 0.1%, leaving Italy in its customary position among the euro zone’s most sluggish economies.

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Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Hugh Lawson