French growth to keep mostly steady through mid 2020: INSEE

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s economy is set to maintain a largely steady pace of growth through to the middle of 2020, dipping only slightly at the start of the year as trade weighs, the INSEE stats agency forecast on Tuesday.

The euro zone’s second biggest economy was on course for growth of 0.3% in the final three months of the year, unchanged from the previous quarter and from INSEE’s previous forecast, it said in its quarterly economic outlook.

France would probably keep up steady growth this quarter even though the country has been hit by nationwide strikes over pension reform since Dec. 5, INSEE said.

INSEE economist Julien Pouget said it was too early to estimate the impact of the strikes on the economy but said if they dragged through the end-of-year holidays the forecast might need to be trimmed.

The economy would benefit from strong exports in the final quarter of 2020 as aircraft makers and shipbuilders rushed to make deliveries before year-end.

However, that boost would in turn dissipate in the first quarter, which would mean growth would ease to 0.2% before picking up to 0.3% in the second quarter, INSEE forecast. Its estimates stopped at mid-year.

For all of 2019, INSEE estimated that the French economy had grown 1.3%, unchanged from a previous forecast.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Alex Richardson