French growth was slightly stronger than expected in 2018

Economic growth was slightly stronger than expected last year in France, despite the strike at the SNCF and the movement of "yellow vests". Good news for the government, even though activity should slow down this year.

According to final figures published Thursday evening by INSEE, the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) reached 1.7% in 2018, 0.1 point higher than what had hitherto been announced.

This is the second upward revision of French growth by the public body, which estimated the growth of GDP 2018 to 1.5% in a first estimate published in late January.

At the root of this new correction: the higher than expected level of household consumption. It grew by 0.9% instead of 0.8%, due to a significant increase in purchasing power (+ 1.4%).

Another favorable element: the evolution of exports, which increased by 3.5% instead of 3.3%, allowing the trade balance to weigh positively on activity (+0.7 point instead of 0.6%). point).

"0.7 point contribution of foreign trade to growth, we had not seen that for a long time," says AFP Denis Ferrand, director of the Rexecode research institute.

Business investment, for its part, remained solid, but still weaker than expected: according to INSEE, it rose 2.8% last year, instead of 2.9%.

– "Inverted mirror" –

The upward revision of the growth of 2018 "is good news for the French," reacted the entourage of the Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire, highlighting the "sincerity" budget forecasts of Bercy.

In its fiscal stability program, the Ministry of the Economy had set its growth target at 1.7% for 2018, after a time envisaged a GDP growth of 2%.

The final figures of 2018 as well as "recent figures on unemployment and foreign investment show the effectiveness of our economic policy," assured the entourage of Mr. Mayor.

According to INSEE, the unemployment rate fell by 0.1 point in the first quarter to 8.7% of the active population in France (excluding Mayotte), its lowest level since early 2009.

France has also made this year its entry into the "top 5" of the most attractive countries for international investment, according to the annual ranking of cabinet A.T. Kearney published Monday.

The new growth figure, which does not change the level of the public deficit for 2018 (2.5%), remains lower than the EU average (1.9%) as well as the average of the area. euro (1.8%).

It is also down compared to 2017, where, according to INSEE, growth reached 2.3% on a gross basis (2.4% in data corrected for working days), ie 0.1 point more than 'ad.

A notable slowdown, which should continue this year. Growth should fall to 1.4% according to the Banque de France. And even at 1.3% according to the OECD, because of the slowdown in global activity.

"The international context is not very promising," says Denis Ferrand, who says he expects for 2019 to a growth "mirror inverted" compared to 2018.

"Last year, we had sluggish consumption, but dynamic exports, and this year consumption should accelerate, thanks to the measures put in place to boost purchasing power." But the outlook for exports is not very good. good ", because of" tensions on world trade ", details the economist.

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