France breaks out of recession with surprisingly strong growth
France has emerged from a shallow recession, posting stronger-than-expected 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter growth in April to June, its best result for two years, official data showed on Wednesday.
The unpopular Socialist government, struggling with rising job losses and a mounting deficit, was quick to hail the news as a turning point after contraction in the last two quarters.
Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said the rebound "confirms the end of the recession in the French economy" and "amplifies the encouraging signs of recovery."
The expansion, which beat analyst forecasts, was largely thanks to improved domestic consumption, the national statistics agency INSEE said in a statement.
Industrial output also rose, but further growth was held back by a fall in investment.
"This is the largest increase since the first quarter of 2011," it added.
While various data has indicated that French economy is perking up, analysts had expected that the recovery would be more tepid.
After earlier predicting that the economy would contract by 0.1 percent overall this year, INSEE said it now expects growth of 0.1 percent for 2013, in line with government forecasts.
But there was no sign the slight increase in economic activity was having an immediate impact on employment levels, with other INSEE data showing the loss of 27,800 commercial jobs in the second quarter.
President Francois Hollande has promised to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of the year, after the number of jobseekers in France rose to a record of nearly 3.3 million.
INSEE also said consumer prices were down 0.3 percent in July but that overall inflation was at 1.1 percent.
Data to be released later Wednesday was expected to show that the eurozone has edged out of its 18-month recession, with many analysts pencilling in 0.2 percent growth.
Germany's Destatis federal statistics office said Wednesday that the German economy, Europe's biggest, expanded by 0.7 percent in the second quarter.
A return to sustained growth will be crucial for France's efforts to bring its public spending deficit back under the EU ceiling of three percent.
Earlier this year the eurozone's second-largest economy was given a two year-reprieve until 2015 to reach the three percent target by the EU.
But analysts say the country may still miss its new target of cutting it to 3.7 percent of GDP this year.
© 2013 AFP