December 3, 2018 / 9:22 AM / 10 days ago

French factory activity softens in November on weak demand, protests: PMI

FILE PHOTO: Employees of French carmaker Renault work on the Clio RS assembly line at Renault factory in Dieppe, France, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - French factory activity was its softest in over two years in November as manufacturers had to contend with a protest movement hitting supply chains on top of weak client demand, a survey showed on Monday.

Data compiler IHS Markit said its final purchasing managers’ index fell to 50.8 in November from October in 51.2, hitting the lowest level since September 2016.

The result was a tad higher than a preliminary reading of 50.7, but nonetheless brought the index closer to the 50-point line dividing expansions in activity from contractions.

“French manufacturers struggled across the board in November, reporting contractions in new orders and employment as well as sharp input cost inflation,” IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.

“The latest survey responses also revealed that recent ‘gilets jaunes’ protests adversely affected the supply side of the sector, with some panellists blaming demonstrations for lengthened delivery times,” he added.

For more than two weeks, the “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vests” have blocked roads across France in a spontaneous, popular rebellion against diesel tax hikes and the high cost of living.

It has grown into one of the largest and most stubborn challenges Emmanuel Macron has faced in his 18-month-old presidency.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Toby Chopra

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