Euro zone retail sales were stronger than expected in February, data showed today, as some countries eased their Covid-19 pandemic restrictions before tightening them again in March.

The European Union's statistics office said retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro rose 3% month-on-month in February for a 2.9% year-on-year fall.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 1.5% monthly rise and a 5.4% year-on-year decline.

Bert Colijn, euro zone economist at ING bank, said that Italy's eased restrictions in February helped the 8.4% increase in sales there.

The Netherlands also allowed in-store pickups of online orders from mid-February, which resulted in a 5.4% increase for the month.

"The big question is whether eurozone consumers are eager to consume when the economy reopens," he said.

"With involuntary savings built up substantially over the course of last year, there is significant potential for a rebound," he added.