Ireland's manufacturing sector buoys eurozone output

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Manufacturing output in Ireland has risen to its highest level in more than 15 years, according to the Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI).

Accelerated growth in both new orders and production pushed Ireland's PMI to 57.5 in February. A figure above 50 suggests expansion.

Overall eurozone manufacturing PMI held steady in February at 51.0.

France's manufacturing sector contracted to 47.6, the lowest score in the eurozone.

Manufacturing in the eurozone matched January's figure, even though new orders rose to a seven month-high.

Meanwhile, lower oil prices have reduced manufacturing input costs, said Markit.

'Key test'

Ireland's manufacturing growth seems to be resilient, said Investec's chief economist Philip O'Sullivan, but "any uncertainty ahead of the upcoming UK election - given that Ireland's closest neighbour has repeatedly been identified by manufacturers as a key source of demand - is likely to put that to the test".

Job creation in Ireland's manufacturing sector reached its highest since May 1998, Markit said.

Greece, France and Austria all saw their manufacturing sectors contract in February.

France's manufacturing PMI fell as sharp declines in output, new orders and employment weighed on the index.

"France is the most worrying, not just because it trails behind all other countries, but it is also the only country seeing a steepening downturn," said Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson.

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