Manufacturing across the eurozone stayed buoyant in March though not quite at the record level seen in February, new data shows.
The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which records manufacturing activity across all the major euro area economies, was 57.5, a slight fall from February's near 11-year high of 59.0.
"Despite the slight easing since February, the data are consistent with industrial production growing at a quarterly rate of two per cent, spearheading the region's recovery," said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.
But the growth, combined with high prices for input materials, have caused manufacturers to raise finished goods prices at the fastest rate since 2002.
Aand performances across the trading bloc were mixed – surging output growth in Europe's largest economy, Germany was offset by a weaker performance in Spain and continued contraction in Greece.
The eurozone manufacturing PMI output index dropped to 58.5 from the previous month's 61.4 and the flash estimate of 58.9.
IHS Global Insight chief economist Howard Archer said the result was a sign of strong growth in manufacturing in the first quarter of the year.
“By showing ongoing robust Eurozone manufacturing activity and rising price pressures, the purchasing managers' survey reinforces belief that the ECB will pull the interest rate trigger next Thursday,” he said.
The euro zone economy grew 0.3 per cent in the final three months of 2010 but is expected to have expanded 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
Data from Germany showed its manufacturing sector grew at a slightly slower pace than February's record high, while growth in France also slowed.
Spain saw a downturn in growth from February's 10-month high and Italy's PMI fell from the previous month's 11-year high.