PARIS: French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire (R) and Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot (L) attend a meeting on providing financial help to the Cultural sector following the COVID-19 pandemic at the Economy ministry in Paris. - AFP

PARIS: Spending by French consumers is falling while inflation is accelerating, data showed yesterday, adding to concerns about the strength of the economic recovery as the pandemic drags on. Household consumption fell by 2.2 percent in July from the previous month after a modest monthly rise in June, the national statistics agency INSEE said in a regular report. The data, which correct for inflation and seasonal variations, found a 2.9-percent drop in spending on food and a 2.7-percent drop on manufactured goods. Decreased spending on clothing and durable goods wiped out gains registered the previous month.

Spending on energy, meanwhile, rose by 1.0 percent. A separate report by INSEE found that a surge in energy prices played a role in the acceleration of 12-month inflation to 1.9 percent in August from 1.2 percent in July. Food and energy prices posted the sharpest increases, while sales of goods also rose as the French summer sale period ended in July. Using the EU's standard measure of consumer price inflation, the HICP, French inflation rose to 2.4 percent in August from 1.5 percent in July.

The European Central Bank defines price stability as inflation rates of just below 2.0 percent, but is willing to tolerate temporary over- or undershooting of that level before stepping in. Meanwhile, INSEE revised its figure for second quarter economic growth to 1.1 percent, from its initial estimate of 0.9 percent.

While the upward revision will certainly be welcomed, the latest data will be cause for concern as consumer spending is the main driver of the French economy. Inflation has also been a worry as it could push the ECB to wind down its support for the economy, even as part of the price rises going forward may be due to pandemic-related shortages of goods. - AFP