By Sudip Kar-Gupta
PARIS (Reuters) - French service sector activity grew in July compared to June, a survey showed on Wednesday, reflecting the reopening of shops and businesses as curbs in place during one of Europe's strictest COVID-19 lockdowns have been gradually eased.
Data compiler IHS Markit said its purchasing managers index rose to 57.3 points - weaker than the flash forecast of 57.8 - from 50.7 in June. Any reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity.
"July PMI data showed the kind of recovery we have been expecting since the easing of lockdown restrictions first began. Both manufacturers and service providers posted sharp expansions in activity following the dire conditions they have experienced in recent months," said IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr.
IHS Markit's overall composite PMI index, covering the services and manufacturing sectors, rose to 57.3 - again below an initial forecast of 57.6 - from 51.7 in June.
"The latest figures add weight to the argument that economic growth should return in the third quarter, which will represent the first green shoots in the recovery after contractions in both the first and second quarter," Kerr said.
Data in July showed that the French economy contracted by a post-war record of 13.8% in the second quarter, although the drop was shallower than expected and a bounceback in consumer spending offered hope of recovery.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by John Stonestreet)