The French economy bloomed again in the second quarter, but inflation still threatens

The French economy bloomed again in the second quarter, but inflation still threatens

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Paris (AFP) – The clouds of recession have dissipated, not those of inflation: France recorded net growth of 0.5% in the spring, but rising prices continue to weigh on consumption.

The first estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter, published Friday by INSEE, will certainly have to be confirmed at the end of August.

But while growth in the second quarter was expected at 0.2% by the Banque de France and 0.25% by the National Institute of Statistics, it finally settled at 0.5% compared to the first. trimester.

“It’s a good surprise, but you have to look at the details,” reacted to AFP Ana Boata, director of economic research at Allianz Trade.

It is particularly concerned about the persistent weakness of household consumption, which it attributes to tensions on purchasing power linked to high inflation.

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The consumer price index, of which INSEE published a first estimate for the month of July on Friday morning, has moreover just crossed the 6% mark (+6.1% over one year after +5, 8% in June).

Trade

“The fact that consumption is still falling despite a generous support policy is revealing”, commented on Twitter Gilles Moëc, chief economist of the Axa group.

Despite the tens of billions in aid schemes for businesses and households deployed by the government, budgetary support “struggles to compensate for the erosion of real incomes and/or the loss of consumer confidence in a difficult environment”, a- he added.

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Apart from this concern, the good performance of the French economy in the second quarter can be explained by a clearly positive contribution of foreign trade to growth.

According to this first estimate of the national accounts, imports fell 0.6% in the second quarter, while exports jumped 0.8%.

The latter were “driven in particular by transport services (+6.3% after +5.0% in the first quarter) and spending by foreign travelers in France (+8.6% after +5.0%)” , details INSEE.

“Conversely, exports of goods fell back (-0.6% after +1.4%), particularly in transport equipment and agri-food”, further specifies the institute.

“The drop in imports means that the increase in aggregate demand (external and domestic) this quarter was satisfied by an increase in production and not by an increase in imports, and it is in this sense that it contributes to the GDP growth”, explains INSEE.

“Volatile” context

As for consumption, the traditional driver of the French economy, it remains negative for purchases of goods (-1.3%), but purchases of services are on the rise again (+1.5%). Two contradictory trends leading to an overall decline of 0.2% in household consumption in the second quarter.

“The consumption of goods and services in the territory is notably supported by the expenditure of foreign travelers in France”, notes INSEE.

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With the figures published on Friday, the institute estimates the growth overhang of the French economy at 2.5% for the year 2022.

A “comfortable” figure, believes Ana Boata, and in line with the government’s annual growth forecast. The Banque de France or the IMF (+2.3%) are slightly less optimistic.

But between the war in Ukraine and inflation which has reached levels not seen since the 1980s, the economic context promises to remain “volatile” by the end of the year, warns Ana Boata.

The INSEE data are published the day after the publication of the figures for American growth in the second quarter (-0.9% at an annualized rate after -1.6% in the 1st quarter), which technically brought the country into recession.

In Europe, growth estimates for the euro zone and several large countries of the Old Continent are also due to be released on Friday morning.

In Spain, growth rebounded strongly in the second quarter to reach 1.1%. And inflation accelerated further in July to reach 10.8% over one year, a record “since September 1984”, according to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE).

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