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French consumer confidence dipped in March ahead of confinement

A customer shops in a Lidl supermarket in Nice

PARIS (Reuters) - French consumer confidence dipped at the start of March, before the government imposed a nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak, a monthly survey showed on Friday.

INSEE, the official stats agency, said that its consumer confidence index fell to 103 from 104 in February. Survey responses were collected from Feb. 26 to March 17, mostly before the lockdown was imposed on March 16, it pointed out.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast on average the index dropped to 92, though they probably did not anticipate that the survey covered mostly the pre-confinement period.

Although the survey did not reflect opinions under confinement, households were already growing cautious as the government stepped up measures to contain the outbreak and its economic fallout.

Households' concerns about their future financial situations and unemployment rose in March to their highest level since April last year, the survey showed.

Nearly 100,000 French companies have put 1.2 million workers on shorter or zero hours under a government-financed scheme to save jobs, with most coming since confinement was imposed, the Labour Ministry said earlier this week.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas, editing by Larry King)