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French economic growth beats forecasts on consumer spending

Miguel Medina, AFP file picture | Consumer spending boosted the French economy in the first quarter of 2016

The French economy grew 0.5 percent in the first quarter, boosted by the strongest increase in consumer spending since 2004 and beating even the most optimistic forecast, the INSEE national statistics agency said in a preliminary estimate on Friday.


In a preliminary reading of gross domestic product for the quarter, INSEE said the 2 trillion euro economy had accelerated from the 0.3 percent growth posted in the previous three months, as a pick-up in business investment helped offset lower exports and stocks.

'Things are better', says Hollande

A poll of 30 analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast 0.4 percent growth for the euro zone’s second-largest economy in the three months to March, with the lowest estimate at 0.1 percent and the highest at 0.4 percent.

'Things are getting better'

The data appeared to lend some credence to President Francois Hollande’s assertion this month on prime-time television that “things are going better”, coming at the end of a week that saw the number of jobless people drop by the most since the dot com boom.

The French Labour Ministry said on Wednesday that the number of people registered as out of work in mainland France fell by 60,000 to 3,531,000 in March, down 1.7 percent over one month, but still up 0.5 percent over one year.

The recent data provides some rare good news for the Socialist government. Hollande has staked his political future on boosting the French economy and tackling unemployment, saying he will not stand for re-election in 2017 unless he bring down the jobless rate. The president has said that he will give himself until the end of the year to decide whether to run for office again.


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