EU industrial output beats forecasts: official data

Industrial output in the 17-nation eurozone edged higher in April, beating forecasts and offering some hope the debt-burdened bloc may finally be stabilising after a steep downturn, official data showed on Wednesday.

Industrial output rose 0.4 percent in April from the level in March, when it gained a sharp 0.9 percent, the Eurostat data agency said.

Compared with April 2012, eurozone industrial output was down 0.6 percent, after a much sharper fall of 1.4 percent in March, with the wider EU off 0.8 percent after 0.9 percent.

The April and March figures were a huge improvement on performance in previous months and analysts said the latest report suggested the 18-month eurozone recession could be near its end.

April marked the third monthly increase running and was "significantly better" than the consensus forecast for no change, Capital Economics said in a note.

If the upturn continues, then the three months to June could see growth of 0.2 percent, after the economy shrank 0.2 percent in the first quarter, it said.

However, other recent data raised the possibility of another slowdown, meaning the eurozone economy was still likely to contract 1.5 percent this year, "much weaker than consensus expectations," Capital Economics said.

Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight said the data "lifts hopes that the sector will expand significantly in the second quarter and help the eurozone dodge a seventh successive quarter of contraction."

However, the eurozone "manufacturing sector is not yet out of the woods," Archer said, noting the impact of tight fiscal and credit conditions, alongside rising unemployment.

On a monthly comparison, Germany, Europe's powerhouse economy, saw industrial output rise 1.2 percent as France jumped 2.3 percent and non-euro Britain edged out a gain of just 0.1 percent.

Among the fallers, Finland slumped 5.1 percent and the Netherlands lost 4.3 percent.