Economic stagnation and continuing debt crisis in the single currency bloc drove the region's business sentiment to 90.6 in May from April's revised 92.9, the European Commission said Wednesday. That was the second big fall in a row and it left the index at its lowest level since the back end of the global recession in October 2009.

Jonathan Loynes, an economist in London with Capital Economics, said in a May 30 note that the sentiment data showed acute weakness across the peripheral economies, but that the Dutch, French and Germans were also less optimistic.

He describes it as overall, an unambiguously weak picture which only looks likely to get worse as the debt crisis continues, and projected that euro area gross domestic product would decline by one percent this year, and that 2013 is likely to be much worse.