The news that euro zone business activity expanded for the first time in 18 months in July has reinvigorated the question that analysts love to debate: is the European economy finally on the up?
Euro zone PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) data out on Monday suggested the area's economy is slowly stabilizing. Markit's euro zone composite PMI rose to 50.5 in July, from 48.7 in June. This was the first time since January 2012 that the PMI had risen above the 50-mark, and was aided by better numbers from peripheral nations such as Spain and Italy.
Spain's service sector still shrunk in July, but at its slowest rate since 2011, increasing to 48.5 in July, from 47.8 in June. Activity in Italy's service sector hit a two-year high of 48.7, far stronger than June's 45.8 reading. Elsewhere, France's service sector posted its best reading in 11 months, while the U.K.'s PMI came in at 60.2, its strongest level since December 2006.
Better data from the peripheral countries is something Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at ETX Capital, focused on when he argued that Monday's PMI numbers were a "definite turning point".
"We're starting to see a better growth picture coming out from the peripheral nations," Siddiqi told CNBC.
"Previously it was the core nations that were posting the growth. Now we're starting to see a different picture, where the peripheral is starting to come to the forefront and the core is showing more of a mixed signal - we saw that German PMI was a little bit weaker."
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However, Ben May, European economist at Capital Economics, said that rather than marking a turning point, the PMI data was "reasonably encouraging".
"We have seen false storms in the past with these figures, so I'm not sure you'd necessarily want to conclude that these numbers are just going to continue on their upward trend indefinitely," May told CNBC.
May said that particularly with regards to Spain, talk of a recovery was misplaced.
"In terms of Spain, I think the important thing to remember is that the index is still below 50, so in that sense - at face value - it's still consistent with contraction in activity. So at the moment, I think the PMI data is only really consistent with the economy contracting less sharply, than being the start of an outright recovery."