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The eurozone recession eased at the end of the second quarter, opening hope of a return to growth in the second half of the year, final data from a key survey signalled on Wednesday.
The Markit Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers Index registered 48.7 points in June compared with 47.7 in May.
This was the third monthly increase in a row and marked a 15-month high, albeit still below the threshold of 50 points indicating growth or recession.
The survey is closely watched as a leading indicator of activity.
"Euro area recession has extended into a record seventh consecutive quarter," said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.
"However there is good reason to believe that the region is stabilising and on course to return to growth during the second half of the year."
He said it was "most encouraging" to see the Spanish economy contracting at the slowest rate for two years, Italy seeing business activity fall at the slowest pace since September 2011 and France's downturn also moderating to the weakest level since last August.
But he cautioned that with Germany barely growing it was "difficult to identify any real growth drivers", meaning that the pace of expansion across the 18-nation area "is likely to remain subdued until business confidence improves further."