Bloomberg News

French Consumer Spending Gained as Cold Boosted Energy Use

March 30, 2012

French consumer spending rose for the first time in four months in February, aided by energy consumption because of a cold snap.

Spending climbed 3 percent from January, when it fell 0.4 percent, national statistics office Insee in Paris said today in an e-mailed statement. Economists expected an increase of 0.2 percent, according to the median of 20 estimates gathered by Bloomberg News. From a year earlier, spending rose 0.5 percent.

The boost in spending may add to Europe’s second-largest economy’s recovery after it almost stalled in the fourth quarter. Confidence among consumers and businesses has started picking up in recent surveys after plunging in the final months of last year on concern about Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

While the growth outlook is improving in part with support from the European Central Bank, government budget cuts and rising joblessness will likely weigh on household demand in months ahead.

“Fairly severe fiscal consolidation will hit households at a time when unemployment is still rising,” said Joost Beaumont, an economist at ABN Amro Bank in Amersterdam. “In the months ahead they may be quite reluctant to spend.”

About two-thirds of the increase in consumer spending in February stemmed from energy consumption, Insee said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Deen in Paris at markdeen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net


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