French 2020 economic contraction could be less than forecast 11% - Le Maire

FILE PHOTO: Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy, Finance, and Recovery, wearing a protective face mask, leaves following the first weekly cabinet meeting after summer vacation break, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, August 26, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s economic contraction in 2020 could end up being less than the 11% currently forecast thanks to a strong recovery in recent months, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.

Le Maire said state-subsidised furloughs had helped boost consumer spending after France emerged from a two-month coronavirus lockdown in May, fueling a rebound since then.

“I believe this improvement should allow us by the end of 2020 to have a recession of less than 11%,” Le Maire told journalists.

Speaking at the MEDEF employers’ association’s annual end-of-summer conference, he added that he would update the forecast in coming weeks when the government publishes its 2021 budget.

In the latest evidence of France’s recovery, business confidence rebounded in August to its highest since it went into lockdown in March despite a resurgence of new infections, a monthly survey from the INSEE statistics agency showed on Thursday.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Hugh Lawson and John Stonestreet