French industrial confidence holds up well

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French industrialists are more confident about long-term prospects although their optimism flattened out in April, a survey by official statistics agency INSEE showed on Friday.

The industrial confidence index steadied at 110 points in April and this was 10 points "higher than the long-term average," INSEE said.

This is one of a number of leading signals of some dynamism in the French economy.

Managers in the manufacturing sector reported that activity had continued to pick up and the balance of views about the outlook was sharply higher than the long-term average, INSEE said.

The INSEE findings back up increasing optimism on the French economic outlook, with the government expecting growth of 2.0 percent this year.

A Purchasing Managers Index survey published earlier this week by marketing consultants Markit showed the economy pushing ahead strongly, with readings at more than 10-year highs.

"The French private sector has begun the second quarter with style, with growth accelerating at the fastest rate for more than a decade," Markit economist Paul Smith said.

"Overall expansion was led by a revived services sector which, in line with the trend noted since the beginning of the year, has shown further acceleration of growth."

"French industrialists are very optimistic, they see strong demand and expect activity to continue at a high level," said Frederique Cerisier of BNP Paribas.

Alexander Law, economist with Xerfi, said the French industrial sector confidence was now back at late 2007, early 2008 levels, before the global financial crisis exploded later that year.

"The return of the confidence index to pre-crisis levels, however, does not mean that industrial output has returned to those levels," Law said.

Figures show that industrial output remains 10 percent below the February 2008 level and Law said that activity has most certainly slowed somewhat from the end of last year.

He said it seems almost "counter-intuitive" that industrialists should feel so confident at a time when the news backdrop is so negative, citing last month's Japanese earthquake, rising inflation and production costs.

© 2011 AFP

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