Final figures show that a leading indicator of economic activity in the euro zone, the purchasing managers' index, accelerated for the first time in three months in July.

But those who compiled the latest purchasing managers' index (PMI) saw signs of deepening disparities between the main national economies.

Research group Markit said the index rose to 56.7 points, from 56 in June, in line with an earlier estimate. Any score above the 50-point line indicates economic growth.

While growth in France and Germany 'accelerated nearer to post-recession peaks', the data from Spain and Italy were weaker.

'It is unlikely that this overall pace of expansion will be sustained for long unless growth picks up in the service sector, which has lagged behind manufacturing throughout the past year,' said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.

Separate figures from the EU's Eurostat agency showed that the volume of retail sales in the euro zone in June was unchanged from May, when sales had risen by 0.4%. The annual rate of growth in sales in June was just 0.4%.