LONDON: Retail sales in some of Europe's biggest markets rose at a rapid rate in January, a new report shows.

The regular index produced by Markit Economics climbed from 52.9 points in December 2010 to 55.8 points in January, with the sharpest increases coming in the two largest economies in the bloc, France and Germany.

A score of 50 points implies neutral sentiment, occurring when the 1,000 retailers questioned for the survey say sales neither rose nor fell for the month.

The latest index score was only beaten by the 56.3 points recorded in May 2006.

According to the financial research firm, growth should continue across the first quarter of this year, as shoppers shake off the effects of the recession.

Trevor Balchin, a senior economist at Markit, told Bloomberg: "The first month of 2011 data for Eurozone retailers is very encouraging, pointing to further positive consumer momentum in France and Germany and a long-awaited rise in Italian retail sales."

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff