The downturn in France's manufacturing sector eased in February and company executives were optimistic about the outlook for business for the first time since last May, a survey showed on Friday.

"The French manufacturing sector is starting to recover, and at a faster pace," said Norman Liebke, an economist at Hamburg Commercial Bank, adding that consumer goods were the main drivers of the uptick.

The HCOB France final purchasing managers index (PMI) for France's manufacturing sector, compiled by S&P Global, rose to 47.1 points in February from 43.1 in January, beating an earlier flash estimate of 46.8.

It was the index's highest reading since January 2023.

A sub-index for new orders jumped to 46.7 points from 38.9 the previous month, the best reading in 20 months.

"We think that domestic demand will pick up over this year, leading to a recovery in the French manufacturing sector," said Liebke, adding that recent geopolitical tensions linked to the war in Gaza and attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea had little impact on France's industry last month.

"The attacks in the Red Sea appear to be relatively harmless in terms of supply chain effects. Although companies reported longer transport times, the delays pale in comparison with the supply chain disruptions in 2021," Liebke said. (Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Susan Fenton)