The public sector deficit in the euro zone dropped to the lowest level since euro bank notes and coins were introduced in 2002 in the third quarter of last year.

The fall was mainly due to a sharp rise in Germany's surplus. 

The seasonally adjusted deficit of the 19-nation bloc declined to 0.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), from 1% in the second quarter, the EU's statistics agency Eurostat said today. 

Many countries saw improved budgetary figures, although the largest impact came from Germany, where the surplus rose to 2.5% from 0.6%. 

The euro zone deficit touched 0.4% in the second and third quarters of 2007. 

Eurostat's data goes back to 2002 and covers the 19 current euro zone members although the single currency bloc only had 12 members when notes and coins were first used in January 2002. 

Eurostat said that government debt fell to 88.1% in the third quarter of last year. That was the lowest level since the first quarter of 2012.

The debt to GDP was higher than the euro zone average in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain and France.