(Updates with detail)
PARIS, March 10 France's central bank forecast
meagre first-quarter economic growth on Monday, while the
country's statistics office said industrial output began the
year on a weak footing due to a slowdown in energy production.
The Bank of France predicted the euro zone's second-biggest
economy would eke out growth of just 0.2 percent in the first
three months of the year, reiterating a previous estimate.
That would mark a slight slowdown from the final quarter of
last year, when the economy grew 0.3 percent in an uptick that
suggested a nascent economic recovery had taken hold.
The government of President Francois Hollande is counting on
economic momentum picking up throughout 2014 to help reduce
unemployment, and the weakness of the recovery may prove
Statistics agency INSEE said on Monday that industrial
production fell 0.2 percent in January. That was far short of
the consensus forecast for 0.2 percent growth in a Reuters poll
of 20 economists.
The biggest drag came from energy production, which fell by
4.4 percent, due to mild temperatures in France in January.
Excluding energy, manufacturing rose 0.7 percent, according
Separately, the Bank of France said in its monthly business
sentiment survey that the morale index for the industrial sector
edged down to 98 from 99 in January, just shy of its long-time
average of 100.
But the central bank cited strengthening nonetheless in many
sectors, notably in the chemicals, pharmaceutical and equipment
and machinery sectors.
It said industrial activity was expected to rise slightly in
Service sector activity also grew, especially in IT services
and temporary work, and staffing levels grew slightly, although
confidence levels in the sector remained static, the same as
(Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Hugh Lawson)