Business activity in the eurozone accelerated slightly in December, a key survey showed Tuesday, but not enough to lift wider economic worries with powerhouse Germany sluggish and France in a slowdown.
Markit Economics said its Composite Purchasing Managers Output Index (PMI) for the 18-country zone that uses the single currency rose marginally to 51.7 points in December from 51.1 points in November.
The still-weak figure will do little to calm worries that the lack of activity in the eurozone is becoming a drag on growth worldwide.
The closely watched survey came as official data showed that eurozone exports in October fell by 0.3 percent from the month before, with imports also lower, down 1.3 percent.
"The eurozone saw a slightly faster growth of business activity in December but still ended the year on a whimper rather than a roar," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
The Markit survey showed the second-lowest increase over the past year, "suggesting the euro area economy expanded by a mere 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter," Williamson said.
Officially, the eurozone economy grew just 0.2 percent in the third quarter, and the latest survey will add to worries that the situation is not about to change.
Particularly worrying was weakness demonstrated in the eurozone's biggest economies, with German businesses reporting the smallest increase in activity since June 2013.
Activity in France, the currency bloc's second biggest economy, fell for the eighth consecutive month.
Outside those key countries however, the outlook was more upbeat, with activity rising at the fastest rate in five months.
"The December purchasing managers surveys suggest that the eurozone has struggled in the fourth quarter to even match the slightly improved GDP growth of 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter seen in the third quarter," said Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight.
But Archer said that while the region is undeniably still weak overall, the survey "at least offered some grounds for hope that very low oil prices, a markedly weaker euro and the ECB’s stimulative measures could be starting to have some positive impact on activity."