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For the consumer discretionary sector, southern Europe may have resembled a graveyard in recent years as the sovereign debt crisis raged. But new car registrations released on Wednesday - often used as a proxy for sales - showed that demand is hinting at a recovery in countries such as Spain and Greece.
In September, demand for new cars in the European Union was up 5.4 percent, from the record low volumes registered in September last year, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said.
This fresh data contrasts with disappointing data for Europe's carmakers so far this year. From January to September, new car registrations declined by 3.9 percent, compared to the first nine months of 2012, ACEA said.
This sudden recovery has come in part to a turn in fortunes for European nations that are beginning to emerge from the depths of recession. Year-on-year registrations grew 28.5 percent in Spain, 15.9 percent in Portugal, 10.1 percent in Portugal and 27.9 percent in Ireland.
But despite these flickering signs of recovery, the bigger picture for Europe's automakers still looked gloomy. In the continent's larger markets, only the U.K. and France posted any sort of growth in September with registrations down 2.9 percent (year-on-year) in Italy and down 1.2 percent in Germany.
(Read More: French March Car Registrations Fall 16.4 Percent)
This data has also done very little to improve the trend for this year, with the U.K. the only significant market to record an increase ( 10.8 percent). The downturn has prevailed across other major markets, ranging from -1.6 percent in Spain to -6.0 percent in Germany, compared with the first nine months of 2102.
— CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter