French businesses are in a more upbeat mood than expected, with private sector activity running at the fastest pace in almost six years.

IHS Markit’s latest purchasing managers’ indices for the country, covering hiring, inventories and the like, rose in March, with the services index jumping to 58.5 from 56.4. Economists polled by Bloomberg had expected a dip. For manufacturing, the index rose to 53.4 from 52.2, again higher than predicted.

That takes the composite index to 57.6 from 55.9. Anything over 50 signals expansion.

“These numbers paint a rosy picture of the French private sector,” said Alex Gill, an economist at IHS Markit. “There is also further evidence that the weakened euro is continuing to boost external demand.”

IHS Markit noted:

Service providers continued to raise their activity levels during March, thereby extending the latest sequence of growth to nine months. Moreover, the rate of expansion accelerated to a 70-month peak. Manufacturing output also continued to increase at a solid pace, albeit to a slightly weaker extent than in February.

Growth in output was paralleled by a ninth successive rise in new business during March. Furthermore, the rate of growth was also the most marked since May 2011. Higher client demand was recorded in both the manufacturing and service sectors, with rates of expansion quicker than in February. Manufacturing exports rose at a pace close to December’s five-and-a-half year high.

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