French industrial confidence hits four-year high in January

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PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) – French industrial confidence rose unexpectedly in January to its highest level in four years while broader business morale weakened in the face of the latest wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, a monthly survey showed on Thursday.

The INSEE official statistics agency said its industrial confidence index rose to 112 from 110 in December, slightly exceeding the average forecast of 111 in a Reuters poll of 13 economists’ expectations.

The improvement brought the index to its highest level since February 2018 as panelists reported stronger order books even while optimism about the general outlook for production eased, INSEE said.

In contrast, INSEE’s broader business confidence index fell to 107 from 109 in December, hitting the lowest level since April last year as the service sector contended with France’s fifth wave of coronavirus outbreaks.

The index for the service sector fell to 105 from 107 in December, also the lowest level since last April, as health restrictions were once again tightened.

Since the arrival of the Omicron variant, the virus has spread rapidly in France with daily new cases at a record of over 400,000 for the last two days. Nonetheless the number of serious cases putting people in ICU wards is much lower than the first wave in March-April 2020.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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