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People stand distanced as they wait to enter a fashion store at a shopping mall in Berlin on March 25, 2021.STEFANIE LOOS/AFP/Getty Images

Euro zone economic sentiment surged much more than expected in March, data showed on Tuesday, moving above the long-term average for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe 12 months earlier, with Germany in the lead.

The European Commission’s monthly survey showed economic sentiment (ESI) in the 19 countries sharing the euro jumped to 101 points in March from 93.4 in February, beating economists forecasts of a rise to 96 points.

“For the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 on the continent, the ESI 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.”

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 -17.0.

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.

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