Official figures show that retail sales across the euro zone rose by more than expected in May - a welcome development that may mean the euro zone exited recession in the second quarter.

Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said today that retail sales during the month rose by 1% in May from April.

That is double what was anticipated in the markets and comes after three monthly falls.

Retail sales are a key indicator of economic activity and an ingredient of economic growth.

The May figures also come ahead of next month's first estimate of second-quarter economic activity in the eur ozone, which will show if the recession continued into a seventh quarter.

Eurostat said all the euro countries it has May figures for posted increases.