Greek factory activity grows for second straight month in Feb - PMI

By Karolina Tagaris

Greek manufacturing activity expanded for the second consecutive month in February, boosted by a rise in output and new orders, a survey showed on Tuesday.

In January, Greek factory activity marked its first expansion since the country's debt problems came to light in 2009 and plunged the eurozone into a debt crisis.

Markit's purchasing managers' index for manufacturing, which accounts for about 10 percent of the Greek economy, rose fractionally to 51.3 in February from 51.2 in January, slightly above the 50 line dividing growth from contraction.

Greece has been stuck in a six-year, austerity-driven recession that has shrunk gross domestic product (GDP) by about a quarter and driven unemployment to record highs.

Athens and its international lenders expect the 183 billion euro economy to pull out of recession this year, projecting anemic GDP growth of 0.6 percent. The country's central bank sees growth of 0.5 percent.

"Solid growth in output and new orders meant that headline PMI was in expansion territory for a second consecutive month in February, the first back-to-back readings above 50.0 for almost five-and-a-half years," Markit economist Phil Smith said.

Export orders were also up in a sign of improved competitiveness, he said.

Production at manufacturers rose for the fourth successive month in February and at the fastest rate since August 2008, the survey showed, while new orders rose for the third time in as many months and at the most marked pace since May 2008.

However, manufacturers continued to shed jobs in February despite a solid rise in demand. The pace of job shedding was slightly faster than the previous month and businesses often left voluntarily vacated positions unfilled, Markit said.

Greece's unemployment rate is more than twice the average for the eurozone, hitting a record 28 percent in November. [Reuters]