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Economy in Brief

French Consumers Take A Step Back After Fourth Months of Improved Confidence
by Robert Brusca January 5, 2010

From its low point in mid 2008 France’s Consumer confidence is still making a long slow recovery. Its drop of one point in December does not signal an end to the climb which, although substantial, has only brought the index to the 28th percentile of the range of values it has occupied Since January 1990. By rank the index is in the 15th percentile meaning that 85% of the 240 observations over this period lie above it.

Despite some significant improvement in consumer confidence the indicator remains at a very low point historically. This underlines how severely impacted confidence was as its lows. Since April of 1991 this has been the third strongest string of increases in the index over any sixteen month period, yet the overall measure of confidence remains mired in a low range- reading.

The prospect of unemployment is in the 75th percentile of its range or the 81st by rank implying that French workers infrequently have felt as threatened by unemployment as they are now.

However French respondents mark their current financial situation as improved and as much better than it was over the last 12-months putting it in the top third of its range and the top 11 percent by rank.

French workers put living standards in the bottom 14 percentile of their range over the last 12-months but boost that standing to the 29th percentile (still pretty low) over the next 12 months, in their outlook

On balance the story of the French consumer is still unfolding underpinned by positive trends. The main problem is that conditions had deteriorated so badly and there is a long way to go to get back to normal. This month brought a one-point set back but that hardly seems indicative of a new, more adverse, trend. Progress still appears to be made.

INSEE Household Monthly Survey
    Since Jan 1990 Since Jan 1990
  Dec
09
Nov
09
Oct
09
Sep
09
Percentile Rank % Max Min Range Mean
Household Confidence -31 -30 -34 -35 28.1 15.0 10 -47 57 -19
Living Standards
 past 12 Mos -66 -66 -70 -72 14.3 13.3 18 -80 98 -40
 Next 12-Mos -37 -36 -40 -41 29.3 18.8 16 -59 75 -21
Unemployment: Next 12 61 62 65 76 75.4 81.7 93 -37 130 32
Price Developments
  Past 12Mo -26 -27 -28 -34 25.6 47.9 64 -57 121 -16
  Next 12-Mos -43 -46 -46 -50 18.3 31.3 33 -60 93 -35
Savings
  Favorable to save 11 14 7 4 37.8 15.8 39 -6 45 22
  Ability to save Next 12 -6 -8 -11 -14 58.6 72.5 6 -23 29 -9
Spending
 Favorable for major purchase -20 -19 -24 -27 37.9 37.1 16 -42 58 -14
Financial Situation
  Current 17 18 13 13 66.7 89.6 24 3 21 12
  Past 12 MOs -20 -22 -24 -25 53.1 31.3 -5 -37 32 -17
  Next 12-Mos -10 -8 -12 -11 40.0 15.0 11 -24 35 -2
Number of observations in the period   240
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