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Purchasing manager survey shows business activity at highest level in 3 years

Business activity in Europe has risen to its highest level in three years as a once-shaky economic recovery gains speed.

The Markit survey of purchasing managers, a closely watched gauge of business activity, climbed to 54.0 in April from 53.1 in March. That's the highest reading since May, 2011. Anything over 50 indicates expansion.

Analysts said Wednesday's figures, which cover both services and manufacturing companies, showed that the moderate recovery was showing increasing strength in the 18 countries that share the euro.

Alarmingly low inflation of only 0.5 percent and high unemployment have raised fears the rebound was too weak to sustain itself and would require more stimulus from the European Central Bank.

The eurozone grew by a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.