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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
French business confidence surges
French business confidence has surged to a three-year high in July.

The national statistical office index, which is based on interviews with executives at about 2,500 companies, climbed to 106 from 104 in June.

The reading is the highest since April 2001, and strengthens the evidence that many of Europe's largest economies are on track for long-term recovery.

Other reports this week have shown that German and Italian business leaders also are more cheery about the future.

According to INSEE, France's statistical office, the responses to its questions "highlight an improvement in industrial economic conditions".

Warm glow?

Analysts said a number of factors are contributing to the current feel-good factor.

The country's prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has said that he expects the second-largest economy in the eurozone to grow by 2.3% in 2004.

He also has pledged to lure more companies to France and attacked the country's labour laws that limit a working week to 35-hours.

Recent figures have shown that consumers are heading back to the shops, with spending levels posting their biggest monthly gain for eight years in June.

Corporate balance sheets are getting a boost as a result and earlier on Wednesday carmaker Renault lifted its full-year profit targets.

Economists, however, said that it was still too early to say that France had emerged completely from its recent troubles, with the strength of the euro and the performance of the US economy key concerns.

"We should not get carried away by these figures," said Marc Touati of Natexis Banques Populaires.

"They are good, certainly. But we should be prudent."




SEE ALSO:
Raffarin vows to fight jobs drain
27 Jul 04  |  Business
French bosses slam 35-hour week
20 Jul 04  |  Business
French economic outlook improves
15 Jul 04  |  Business
Sarkozy pledges 'growth and jobs'
01 Apr 04  |  Business


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