May 2, 2018 / 7:55 AM / 10 months ago

French factories growth picks up in April after three-month slowdown

FILE PHOTO: Employees work on the assembly line to build Yaris cars at Toyota's automobile manufacturing plant in Onnaing, France, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

PARIS, (Reuters) - Activity in French manufacturing snapped a streak of three consecutive months of slower growth in April, a survey showed on Wednesday, suggesting a slowdown also evident in the wider euro zone was less likely to turn into something worse.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its final purchasing managers’ index inched up to 53.8 in April from 53.7 in March.

That was better than a preliminary reading of 53.4 and brought the index further from the 50-point line dividing expansion from contractions.

Economists have been wondering whether a slowdown in growth in Europe since the turn of the year was the harbinger of a more severe downturn or simply a temporary blip caused by an unusually cold and snowy winter.

In April, French railway workers also started a wave of rolling strikes to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms.

“The slowdown in client demand growth seen since the start of 2018 can be partially linked to poor weather conditions, while the recent train strikes may also have played a part,” IHS Markit Economist Alex Gill said.

“The degree to which these factors can explain the slowdown or whether the cause is something of greater concern will become more apparent in the coming months,” he said.

Encouragingly, manufacturing output and employment rose at sharper rates than in March, the PMIs showed.

However, the pace of expansion in new orders continued to moderate, in turn leading to the weakest degree of business confidence in seven months, IHS Markit said.

Reporting by Michel Rose, editing by Larry King

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