Euro zone retail sales jumped much more than expected in August, data showed today, pointing to stronger demand from households that could help economic growth in the third quarter. 

The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said retail sales in the euro zone rose 1.2% month-on-month in August for a 1.9% year-on-year gain. 

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.1% monthly and a 0.5% annual increase after sales contracted 0.4%month-on-month in July and rose 0.5% on the year. 

Though volatile, retail sales data is a proxy for household demand, one of the weaker elements of the euro zone recovery that stalled in the second quarter.

Eurostat data showed sales of non-food products, and fuel at petrol stations made the biggest contribution to the monthly rise of the index in August, with the euro zone's biggest economy Germany reporting the biggest gain of 2.5%. 

In annual terms, sales of non-food products played an even bigger role as their 3.6% year-on-year rise offset a 0.2% fall in the sales of food and the same drop in the sales of petrol.

Both Germany and second biggest France recorded strong gains of 3.1% and 2.1% respectively.