PARIS (Reuters) - French business activity expanded more strongly than forecast in April, according to a survey, as the euro zone's second-biggest economy shows signs of resilience to the hits dealt to business by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data compiler IHS Markit said its preliminary composite Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for April rose to 51.7 points from 50 in March, beating a consensus analyst forecast for 48.8 points.
April's number moved the index above the 50-point threshold indicating an expansion in activity, compared to a contraction.
The flash PMI reading for France's dominant services sector rose to 50.4 points in April from 48.2 in March, also above a consensus analyst forecast for a reading of 46.5 points.
The flash PMI for manufacturing stood at 59.2 in April, down slightly from 59.3 in March but above a forecast for 59.0 points.
IHS Markit added in its survey that anecdotal evidence showed that firms were confident of a strong economic recovery in France, once COVID-19 restrictions had been fully relaxed.
"Latest PMI data pointed to the first increase in private sector activity since the end of the initial COVID-19 rebound last summer," said IHS Markit economic Eliot Kerr.
"Beyond the next few months, panel members are also confident of further upward momentum in demand and that was reflected by the strongest expectations towards the 12-month business outlook for over three years," added Kerr.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Toby Chopra)