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Euro zone Feb factory activity contracted for 20th month, PMI shows

FILE PHOTO: Workers assemble caravans at the Knaus-Tabbert AG factory in Jandelsbrunn, Germany

LONDON (Reuters) - Euro zone manufacturing activity continued to contract last month amid weak demand although firms were optimistic about the year ahead, a survey showed on Friday.

HCOB's final euro zone manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), compiled by S&P Global, dipped to 46.5 in February from January's 46.6, beating a preliminary estimate of 46.1 but below the 50 mark separating growth in activity from contraction for a 20th month.

An index measuring output, which feeds into a composite PMI due on Tuesday and seen as a good gauge of economic health, held steady at January's 46.6, above a flash estimate of 46.2.

"The euro zone's one-year industrial recession is not coming to an end. Output has declined again at the same pace as the previous month, mainly due to the heavyweights Germany and France," said Cyrus de la Rubia, chief economist at Hamburg Commercial Bank.

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Factories in the euro zone reduced headcount for a ninth month and, as has happened for almost two years, backlogs of orders were reduced as factories tried to stay active. The new orders index was sub-50 for a 22nd month.

Still, in an encouraging sign, the future output index, a gauge of optimism, held steady at January's 57.1, which had been the highest level since last April.

(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Susan Fenton)