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France sees June consumer boom after COVID restrictions eased

·2-min read

PARIS (Reuters) - French consumers are splurging on everything from clothes to cafes as the lifting of coronavirus restrictions boosts confidence to pre-pandemic levels and unemployment concerns subside, data showed on Tuesday.

The finance ministry said that payment card data showed spending was up 18% in the third week of June from the same period of 2019 with little sign of easing in the weeks after coronavirus restrictions were relaxed.

"The real surprise is that it's holding up over time," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Cnews television. "That proves that (consumers) are using their savings for consumption and reviving the economy."

Spending on electronic goods was up more than 45%, and nearly 30% on clothes while spending in hotels and restaurants was up more than 10%, the data showed.

Shops, museums, cinemas and theatres reopened on May 19, ending the country's third nationwide lockdown since the pandemic emerged last year.

Since then cafes, bars and restaurants have gradually been allowed to have more patrons and a national night-time curfew ended on June 20, 10 days earlier than initially scheduled as infection numbers fell and a vaccination campaign gained speed.

With restrictions relaxed, consumer confidence surged in June to its highest level since March last year, just before the outbreak swept across the country.

The INSEE official statistics agency said on Tuesday its consumer confidence index jumped to 102 in June from 98 in May, surpassing economists' average expectation for a reading of 100 in a Reuters poll.

It also showed that concerns about unemployment were the lowest since the outbreak first started while pessimism about the general economic outlook was the weakest since December 2017.

Separately, INSEE said that unemployment ticked only marginally higher in the first quarter, rising to 8.1% from 8.0% in the previous three months.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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