Markit’s Composite Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the euro zone, based on surveys of thousands of companies and seen as a good guide to growth, slipped to 54.0 from November’s 54.2.
While a Reuters poll had suggested it would hold steady at November’s level, it has been above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction since July 2013.
Williamson said the PMI pointed to fourth quarter economic growth of 0.4 percent, in line with a Reuters poll published last week.
Prices rose just 0.1 percent in November, official data showed earlier this month, and worryingly for policymakers the composite output price index was below 50 for a third month, holding steady at 49.5.
Despite the price cutting, a PMI covering the bloc’s dominant service industry fell to 53.9 from November’s 54.2. But firms were more optimistic about the coming year. The business expectations sub-index climbed to a four-month high of 63.0 from 62.4.
Manufacturers had a better end to the year than expected. Their PMI rose to a 20-month high of 53.1, confounding forecasts for it to hold steady at November’s 52.8.
The output index, which feeds into the composite PMI, jumped to 54.4 from 54.0, also a 20 month high.