PARIS Jan 31 French consumer spending
stabilised in December as a fall in outlays on energy offset a
jump in auto sales, confounding expectations of a slight
improvement overall during the key holiday season.
Consumer spending was unchanged last month after rising 0.2
percent in November, data from the INSEE official statistics
office showed. A Reuters poll of 15 economists had an average
forecast for an increase 0.2 percent in December.
Over the whole of the final three months of 2012, consumer
spending eased 0.1 percent from the previous quarter, signalling
that the traditional motor of the euro zone's second-biggest
economy is likely to have weighed down on gross domestic product
in the period.
In rare good news for France's beleaguered carmakers, the
December data showed that new car sales surged by 4.6 percent
over the month before new fees for high-polluting cars came into
effect at the start of this year.
However, spending on energy dropped 3.5 percent as mild
weather reduced households' heating bills.
With unemployment around 15-year highs, consumer spending
was dampened over much of 2012 as households entrenched for
tough economic times amid a steady stream of headlines about
factory closures and layoffs.
For a full table of the data
For a graphic click on: link.reuters.com/pef35s
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas)