By Jonathan Cable
LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Euro zone businesses started the second half of 2017 with robust growth although the pace slowed slightly from June as a loss of momentum in Germany and France dragged on activity, a survey showed on Thursday.
IHS Markit's final composite Purchasing Managers' Index for the euro zone was 55.7 in July, down from June's 56.3 and a flash estimate of 55.8. It has been above the 50 mark that divides growth from contraction since mid-2013.
"The surveys indicated a slight cooling in the pace of growth in July, but this is still an encouragingly upbeat picture of business conditions," said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at survey compiler IHS Markit.
Williamson said the data pointed to a 0.6 percent economic growth rate, matching official preliminary estimates for the second quarter that were released on Tuesday. A Reuters poll last month predicted a 0.4 percent pace.
Signaling the positive readings could continue into August, new orders rose, backlogs of work were built up and firms increased headcount. The employment sub-index held steady at June's 54.4, one of the highest readings in the last 10 years.
Activity in Germany's services sector slowed to a 10-month low, however, and France's private sector grew more slowly in July than in the previous month, earlier figures showed. Spain's services PMI dipped last month.
"Of the four largest euro members, only Italy recorded faster growth in July," noted Williamson.
A PMI covering the bloc's dominant service industry held at June's 55.4, matching the flash estimate. Tuesday's manufacturing PMI dipped from the previous month.
New business for services firms came in at a faster rate last month. The sub-index nudged up to 55.2 from 55.1 in June.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)