France economy loses momentum in first quarter

Paris

Economic growth in France slowed in the first quarter, the national statistics office Insee said on Friday, just a week before the country chooses its next president in an election where the economy is taking centre stage.
France’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.3 percent in the period from January to March, slower than the 0.5 percent recorded in the preceding three months, Insee said in a statement.
Lacklustre household spending took the shine off a strong pick-up in investment, while overall foreign trade had a negative effect on headline growth due to falling exports, the statisticians calculated.
The data are being closely watched ahead of the second round of the French presidential election next weekend, which is being fought by pro-EU, market friendly centrist Emmanuel Macron and the anti-EU, anti-immigration far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen.
In the months leading up to the election, there had been a great deal of market uncertainty in the face of a possible win by Le Pen.
But following the first round of voting last week, Macron—a former economy minister under outgoing president Francois Hollande—appears to be the current favourite to be elected.
The hard economic data could come as a disappointment after recent survey data showed confidence among households and businesses at high levels.—APP

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