By Daniel Hunter

Growth in the Irish manufacturing sector rose to a 15-year high in February, providing a welcome boost to the sector in the eurozone.

The Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for Ireland grew to 57.5 in February. Any figure above 50 indicates growth and towers above the eurozone average of 51 for the month.

Investec chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said there was resilience in the Irish manufacturing sector, but warned that "any uncertainty ahead of the upcoming UK election - given that Ireland's closest neighbour has repeatedly been identified by manufacturers as a key source of demand - is likely to put that to the test".

The survey also showed that job creation in Ireland's manufacturing sector was at its highest since 1998.

France's manufacturing contracted with a score of 47.6, the lowest in the eurozone. There were also falls for Greece and Austria.

"France is the most worrying, not just because it trails behind all other countries, but it is also the only country seeing a steepening downturn," said Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson.

Germany, the eurozone's largest economy, rose to a two-month high of 51.1.