A sturdy recovery is still a distant prospect for Europe, despite recent upbeat economic data, ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) said on Wednesday.
S&P forecast that the euro zone economy would shrink once again this year, by 0.7 percent, before growing by 0.8 percent in 2014 and 1.3 percent in 2015. Its outlook contrasts with a number of more bullish forecasts for the region, with Goldman Sachs, for example, expecting a smaller contraction of 0.36 percent in 2013, and growth of 0.87 percent next year.
"We see that some of the actors that usually stage a recovery are not yet in place, such as exports, consumer spending, and corporate investment, except to a certain extent in Germany," said S&P EMEA Chief Economist Jean-Michel Six, in a report entitled "Europe is moving from sub-zero to sub-par growth."
(Read more: Why investors should not worry about Germany)
"Looser fiscal policies appear to be playing a more active role in the current stabilization in Europe. But this also suggests that a sturdy recovery is a long way off," he added.
A run of positive economic data over the past two months have boosted hopes of a looming upturn in the region. In particular, the official estimate for second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth suggested the single currency zone's six-quarter-long recession had ended, coming in at 0.3 percent.
Earlier this week, a survey by Sentix research group showed that euro zone sentiment had turned positive for the first time in more than two years in September, and PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) data for August revealed that business activity expanded for a second successive month.
Things are even looking up for the likes of Greece following a "tourism bonanza" this summer, according to Capital Economics. UBS upgraded their growth forecasts for the country after a "better-than-feared" economic contraction in the second quarter.
(Read more: 'Tourism bonanza' to give Greece a boost?)