PARIS (Reuters) - Consumer spending in France slumped unexpectedly over the key Christmas shopping period, in a sign consumers are tightening their purse strings as uncertainties over jobs and economic growth weigh.
National statistics office INSEE said on Tuesday outgoings on food and manufactured goods fell 0.7 percent month on month in December, a period when spending on gifts and festivities is traditionally high.
The reading missed an average forecast for a 0.2 percent rise from 12 economists in a Reuters poll.
Spending was down 3.1 percent compared to a year earlier, and remained stable over the final quarter of 2011.
Purchases of clothes and shoes fell 0.9 percent month-on-month, suggesting French shoppers might be holding back for the January sales period.
Energy slumped 2.7 percent, a fall which can partially be attributed to the mild weather, while petrol purchases tumbled 4.2 percent compared to the previous month.
Data at the end of December showed French consumer confidence remained stable over the month amid the ongoing economic turmoil. But the reading remained well below a long-term average of 100 amid rising unemployment and the prospect of another recession.
Reporting by Vicky Buffery