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French economy grows 0.5% as consumer spending roars back

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The French economy grew 0.5 per cent 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.

[PARIS] The French economy grew 0.5 per cent 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 per cent growth posted in the previous three months, as a pick-up in business investment helped offset lower exports and stocks.

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

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.

REUTERS