Euro zone business and consumer confidence in December rose to levels last seen in July 2011 as the economy recovers from a hugely damaging recession, official data showed today.

The European Commission said its Economic Sentiment Indicator for the euro zone rose 1.6 points to 100, with the wider 28-nation European Union up 1.4 points to 103.5. 

"Sentiment in the euro area is thus back to its long-term average for the first time since July 2011," the Commission said in a statement.

The "marked improvement" covered a broad range, from the consumer to services, retail, construction and to a lesser extent, industry, it said. 

Spain showed the biggest gain at four points, followed by Italy on 2.3 points and the Netherlands on 1.5. Germany and France, the euro zone's top two economies, both edged up 0.3 points.

Recent data for the euro zone has been mixed after it escaped recession in the second quarter last year with growth of 0.3%, only to slow sharply in the third when it gained just 0.1%.

On balance, analysts say the figures point to a continued slow recovery, with record unemployment levels likely to take some time to come down.