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Greek factory activity holds steady in Sept, firms take on staff -PMI

ATHENS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Greek manufacturing activity held steady in September after six months of contraction, with new orders declining at a softer pace and firms taking on more workers, a survey showed on Thursday.

IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for manufacturing, which accounts for about 10% of the Greek economy, rose to 50.0 in September from 49.4 in August. Readings above 50.0 indicate that activity is growing.

“The manufacturing sector showed positive signs of recovery in September as operating conditions stabilised, and the output index posted above the crucial 50.0 neutral mark for the first time since February,” said IHS Markit economist Sian Jones.

Although new sales continued to fall, the rate of contraction eased to the slowest in three months. Uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic weighed on client demand, with new export orders also down but at a softer pace.

Firms took on staff, adding jobs for the second month in a row, the survey showed.

“Job creation picked up as manufacturers expanded employment amid further expectations that output will rise over the coming 12 months,” Jones said.

On the price front, margins continued to be squeezed with input price inflation quickening and selling prices falling faster. In a bid to drive new sales and stave off competition, firms cut prices further in September.

Business confidence remained solid but dipped below the series average with firms pointing to the pandemic.

“Uncertainty crept back into business confidence as concerns regarding a dip in demand for transportation and tourism weighed on optimism. We do not expect total economic output in Greece to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024,” Jones said. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Hugh Lawson)