PARIS (Reuters) - French business activity strengthened in May, helped by the dwindling impact of anti-government “yellow vests” protests and growth in the dominant services sector of the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.
Data compiler IHS Markit said its Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for services rose to 51.5 in May from 50.5 in April, which it said was the fastest expansion in the sector in six months.
The index rose further away from the 50-point threshold dividing an expansion in activity from a contraction.
IHS Markit’s overall composite PMI index, which includes the services and manufacturing sectors, also rose to 51.2 points from 50.1 in April.
An initial flash forecast had given a reading of 51.7 for the May services PMI and 51.3 for the composite PMI.
The numbers of people turning up to the weekend “yellow vests” protests have been steadily falling, with President Emmanuel Macron having cut income taxes to appease public anger.
“May’s PMI results pointed to the strongest private sector activity growth since protests began last November, highlighting the dwindling impact of the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement,” said IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr.
“The improved performance was primarily driven by the service sector, where the pace of both output and new order expansion accelerated. However, downward pressure from the manufacturing sector also eased, with production falling at the softest rate since a rise in February,” added Kerr.
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Catherine Evans