EU business, consumer confidence picks up again: data

EU business and consumer confidence improved for a fourth consecutive month in February, official data showed Wednesday, even as the outlook remained uncertain.

The European Commission said its Economic Sentiment Indicator for the 17-nation eurozone rose 1.6 points from January to 91.1 while the broader 27-state EU added 1.2 points to 92.

While both readings remain below the long-term average of 100, they clearly point upwards after falling steadily for most of 2012.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, gained 2.5 points in the February survey while Spain added 1.5 points, France 1.3 points and Italy 0.3 points. Britain was down 0.5 points.

The commission said the improvement was driven by increases in industry and services while consumer confidence picked up only marginally.

In the industry sector, the eurozone reading rose 2.6 points and the EU by 2.2 points on the back of a more positive outlook on production and orders.

The services sector, which accounts for the bulk of economic activity, was up 2.3 points in the eurozone and added 0.9 points for the EU 27.

Consumer confidence in the eurozone and EU both gained 0.3 points, with views mixed about the overall economic outlook and personal circumstances.

Confidence indicators are important pointers to how the economy will perform and the latest figures suggested that optimism was gaining ground as the debt crisis has eased.