The latest EU estimate shows that the euro zone economy shrank in the second quarter of this year for the first time since the zone was formed in 1999.

The euro zone economy shrank 0.2% in the three months after expanding 0.7% in the first quarter of the year, EU statistics body Eurostat said, confirming a first estimate.

On an annual basis, the economy also slowed sharply, growing 1.4% in the second quarter after expanding 2.1% in Q1.

With a steady flow of downbeat economic data in recent weeks, there are increasing concerns that the euro zone may have fallen into recession, which is technically defined as two successive quarters of contraction.

Separate Eurostat figures show that retail sales in the euro zone fell by more than than expected in July. The volume of sales fell 0.4% from June and slumped 2.8% over 12 months. The deterioration followed a slump in June when sales tumbled 0.9% over one month and 3.2% over the year.