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France's central bank sees 0.3% growth in second quarter

[PARIS] France is poised for economic growth of 0.3 per cent in the second quarter of the year, the country's central bank forecast Tuesday, as solid industrial production boosts the eurozone's second-biggest economy.

In its first forecast for the second three months of the year, the Banque de France said the "rise in production should continue in May" after solid gains in April.

On the downside, the bank forecast a "slight dip" in construction activity this month after a stable performance in April..

The French economy expanded at a sluggish rate of 0.4 per cent last year as President Francois Hollande battled a stubbornly high unemployment rate.

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The Socialist leader has launched a two-pronged attack on the jobless figures: a tax break for firms in return for job creation and a bid to open up certain sections of the country's closed economy.

He has said he will not seek re-election as president in 2017 if he does not find a way to reverse the upwards trend in unemployment.

According to the most recent figures, unemployment stood at a record high of more than 3.5 million people in France, at a rate of over 10 per cent.

Most economists believe that an annual growth rate of at least 1.5 per cent is required to drive down unemployment.

But the government has forecast growth at 1.0 per cent in 2015, rising slightly to 1.5 per cent in 2016 and 2017.

On Wednesday, the national statistics office will publish its first estimate for growth in the first quarter.