london August 1, 2012, 15:25 IST
london 08 01, 2012, 15:30 IST
Markit's Eurozone Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the manufacturing sector fell to 44.0, the lowest reading since June 2009 and below a flash reading of 44.1 and June's 45.1.
The output index sank to 43.4, the lowest since May 2009, under June's 44.7 and an earlier flash 43.6. Markit said it was in line with the official measure of production falling at a quarterly rate of over 1 percent.
"The euro zone manufacturing sector's woes intensified again in July. Manufacturing therefore looks to be on course to act as a major drag on economic growth in the third quarter, as the euro zone faces a deepening slide back into recession," said Chris Williamson at Markit.
After stagnating in the first quarter, narrowly avoiding a technical recession, a raft of gloomy data pushed economists in a Reuters poll last month to predict a contraction in the second and third quarters.
At its policy meeting on Thursday, it is expected to restart its dormant government bond buying programme with the aim of lowering Spanish and Italian government bond yields, which have reached levels unsustainable in the long-term.
Bank President Mario Draghi vowed last week that "the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro".
The PMI for Greece, where the debt crisis began, has been below 50 since September 2009. Ireland was the only country to show signs of emerging from the downturn, Markit said, where its PMI was above 50 for the fifth month.
Factories across the euro zone cut prices at the fastest pace since early 2010, but the new orders index still fell to 42.8 from the previous month's 43.5 and has only been lower once in over three years. New export orders were at an eight-month low.
"The current weakness of global economic growth suggests that all producers face a challenging environment in export markets as well as at home," Williamson said.
Some of the output was generated by firms running down backlogs for the 14th consecutive month and workforces were cut for the sixth month to reduce costs.
Unemployment across the bloc rose to a euro-era high of 11.2 percent in June, official data showed on Tuesday.
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For further information, please phone Markit on +44 20 7260 2454, or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Editing by Hugh Lawson)