France posts surprise GDP growth of 0.2 percent in third-quarter

PARIS Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:08am GMT

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PARIS (Reuters) - France posted surprise economic growth of 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter, the INSEE national statistics office said on Thursday, as household consumption bounced back and manufacturing grew.

The preliminary data, which confounded expectations France might slip into recession by year-end, also showed second-quarter economic output was revised down to -0.1 percent, from 0.0 percent.

The third-quarter figure was close to the top of the range of forecasts from 30 economists' polled by Reuters, who had predicted on average zero percent growth quarter-on-quarter.

The unexpected growth may provide a boost to Socialist President Francois Hollande, who has seen his approval ratings slump amid rising unemployment since taking office in May.

It could also provide a lift to growth figures for the euro zone as a whole, due out later on Thursday and expected to show the bloc's 9.4-trillion-euro ($11.96 trillion) economy entering recession for the first time since 2009.

Household consumption, the engine of France's 2-trillion-euro economy, grew by 0.3 percent in the third quarter after contracting 0.2 percent in the previous three months.

After two quarters of mild contraction, manufacturing output also crept up 0.1 percent, lifted by a rise in sales of transport materials and refining and coking.

Growth in exports accelerated to 0.5 percent from 0.3 percent in the second quarter, while import demand declined 0.6 percent after strong growth of 1.6 percent in the second quarter.

($1 = 0.7856 euros)

(Reporting By Daniel Flynn; Editing by Catherine Bremer)

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