July 13, 2020 / 6:31 AM / 21 days ago

French consumer spending has almost returned to normal levels - finance minister

FILE PHOTO: Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy, Finance, and Recovery, attends a handover ceremony at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that French consumer spending has almost returned to normal levels and that forced household savings during the coronavirus lockdown period could boost consumption later on in the year.

“Our recovery plan...is working. A few weeks ago consumption in France was at minus 30%, today we are just minus 5%, we have almost returned to normal,” Le Maire said on RTL radio.

Le Maire also said that he estimates that households will have saved about 100 billion euros (£89.3 billion) by year-end due to the coronavirus crisis. “What I wish for is that they will spend this 100 billion,” he said.

Le Maire said that on top of a coronavirus rescue plan worth 460 billion euros in the form of emergency loans for companies and other measures, the government will present another leg of the recovery plan at the end of summer.

When asked if that new plan would be worth about 100 billion euros, Le Maire said: “The numbers can go very high, up to the level that you indicate”.

French statistics agency INSEE last week said it expects the French economy to rebound sharply in the second half of the year after an unprecedented slump in the first half due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Following a likely 17% contraction in the second quarter from the previous three months, and a 5.3% slump in the first quarter, the economy is expected to rebound 19% in the third quarter and a further 3% in the fourth, with activity seen 1-6% below pre-crisis levels by December.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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