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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
France escapes recession
Arc de Triomphe, Paris
The French economy managed to grow slightly by 0.3% in the first three months of the year.

The news means that the eurozone's second largest economy has escaped recession after it shrank in the final three months of 2002.

A recession is usually defined as two consecutive quarters of decline.

"The rise is good news and might be a sign that the economy can rebound by the end of the year," said Jean-Louis Mourier, an economist at Aurel Leven.

The economy is predicted to grow by 1.2% during 2003.

Q1 2002: +0.7%
Q2 2002: +0.5%
Q3 2002: +0.3%
Q4 2002: -0.1%
Q1 2003: +0.3%
(initial estimate)
Despite the signs of growth, French businessmen remain cautious about the outlook.

"The current context is characterised by an unprecedented lack of visibility and the negative impact of the strong euro," said Henri Lachman, chairman of French electrical equipment maker Schneider Electric, last week.

Other big eurozone economies are also struggling. Both Germany and Italy contracted in the first three months of the year.

And France is unlikely to be able to pull itself away from the wider trend.

"There is no way France can buck the trend and avoid what's happening to the others - Germany and Italy," said David Naude, an economist at Deutsche Bank.

The INSEE national statistics institute also reported on Tuesday that French consumer spending grew 0.6% in the first quarter, a rise on the 0.4% achieved in the previous three quarters.

The BBC's Andrew Walker
"This reasonably good figure does follow a decline in the total output in goods and services..."

French economy shrinks
29 Apr 03  |  Business
France halves growth target
17 Mar 03  |  Business
France freezes tax cuts
07 Mar 03  |  Business
France busts deficit limit
06 Mar 03  |  Business

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