July 29, 2020 / 7:11 AM / 14 days ago

French consumer confidence falls in July as COVID-19 cases flare up

PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) - French consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in July amid signs of a rebound in COVID-19 infections, as fears about unemployment remained high and people increasingly felt their standard of living was falling, a monthly survey showed.

The INSEE official statistics agency on Wednesday said its consumer sentiment index fell to 94 from a revised 96 in June, missing an average forecast for 99 in a Reuters’ poll of economists’ expectations.

Consumer confidence fell after the government put France under one of Europe’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns in mid- March, but it had been recovering after a steady easing of the restrictions began in mid-May.

The renewed decline in July comes as new COVID-19 infections flared up, leading France and other countries in Europe to impose new restrictions. France made wearing a face mask in enclosed public spaces mandatory on July 20.

The survey showed a drop in the number of households that thought their standard of living has improved over the past 12 months, the third straight monthly decline.

Households’ concerns about unemployment eased, but remained high after hitting a seven-year peak in June.

The government expects the euro zone’s second-biggest economy to contract by 11% this year, putting as many as 800,000 jobs at risk. (Reporting by Richard Lough, editing by Larry King)

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