French Economy Stabilizes at 5% Below Pre-Pandemic Levels
(Bloomberg) -- French economic activity is running at 5% below pre-crisis levels as the government holds off from imposing a full Covid-19 lockdown beyond the current curfew and closures in some sectors, the Bank of France said Tuesday.
After dipping to 7% below normal during November’s lockdown, the economy improved somewhat in December and is expected to remain steady through February, according to the central bank’s monthly survey of 8,500 companies conducted between Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. The stability comes despite the introduction of slightly stricter restrictions in recent weeks, including an earlier curfew and the closing of large shopping malls.
“Confronted with a hard shock, the French economy is resisting well overall,” Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said in an interview with regional newspaper network Groupe EBRA. “This resilience is both a good surprise concerning the end of 2020, and a source of reassurance for 2021.”
Villeroy confirmed the central bank’s forecast of 5% growth in 2021, which he described as “robust and rather cautious.”
Still, the situation could change quickly if the government opts for more restrictions to contain the virus. According to statistics agency Insee, such a lockdown could cause the economy to contract again in the first quarter.
“Even more than usual, these estimates are surrounded by a large margin of uncertainty as they depend on how the health situation evolves,” the Bank of France said in its report. According to officials at the central bank, the economy would record close to zero growth if activity continued at the same level in March as in the first two months of the year.
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