Euro zone economic sentiment surged much more than expected in March, data showed today, moving above the long-term average for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe a year ago. 

The European Commission's monthly survey showed economic sentiment in the 19 countries sharing the euro jumped to 101 points in March from 93.4 in February. 

This was better than economists' forecasts of a rise to 96 points. 

"For the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19 on the continent, the economic sentiment index is slightly above its long-term average," the Commission said. 

"The increases were of a magnitude not seen since last summer's steep recovery following the first phase of the pandemic," it added. 

The Commission said that among the largest EU economies, Germany stood out with the largest monthly sentiment improvement on record of 7.9 points to 103.7 points. 

Optimism surged in all categories, with industry sentiment improving to 2.0 from -3.1 and in services, the largest sector in the euro zone economy, rising to -9.3 from -17. 

Consumer optimism rose to -10.8 from -14.8 and in retail to -12.2 from -19.1. Construction and financial services showed strong improvements too. 

Selling price expectations in industry rocketed to 17.6 from 9.8 and among consumers expectations of price trends over the next 12 months rose to 18.6 from 15.7, today's index showed.