Jan 06 - Service industry growth may have slowed sharply in China but figures for the euro zone in 2013 showed business activity picked up across most of it. As Sonia Legg reports France was once again the exception.
Spain's car industry isn't the only part of the euro zone's manufacturing sector doing well. Businesses across the region enjoyed a strong finish to 2013 and for the first time in two years as many jobs were created as cut. Markit's end of year survey of thousands of manufacturers and service providers suggested comfortable growth. New orders have been coming in at their fastest pace since June 2011. The picture is similar across most major economies - apart from one. Barclay's Wills Hobbs. (SOUNDBITE) (English): WILL HOBBS, BARCLAYS. SAYING: "France does seem to be converging from the rest of the euro zone in terms of business confidence data recently and that is a concern. France has made the least progress in terms of reforms - the countries that have done the best such as Spain have seen marked rises in the businesses confidence statistics and economically seem to be doing much better and it does feel that France is stuck behind the competition a little bit." Across the euro zone it's the prospect of more hiring that's perhaps the most encouraging news. In October unemployment was down slightly to just over 12% meaning 19.3 million people were officially out of work. These latest figures also suggest the return of that rare feeling - optimism. The service sector - which covers a range of businesses from banks to hairdressers - is more positive about the next 12 months than it has been in two and a half years. That general upturn should in fact help France, but probably not without significant reform.