French economy continues to slide

The French economy is struggling, data showed on Monday, with manufacturing still contracting in November and auto sales down by a fifth.

The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a leading indicator compiled by the Markit research firm, put the French manufacturing sector at 44.5 points in November.

While that represents a gain from 43.7 in October and the best result in three months, it is still far a reading of 50, which would suggest expansion.

The survey of company purchasing managers found that the volume of new orders continued to decline sharply, reflecting essentially weakening demand inside the country.

The French economy has essentially marked time since the end of last year. Data released last month showed 0.2 percent growth in the third quarter, but also a 0.1 percent contraction in April to June.

The French government still expects 0.3-percent growth for the year.

Meanwhile new car sales plunged by 19.2 percent in November on a monthly basis and by 13.8 percent in the first 11 months of the year, the French automobile manufacturers association CCFA said Monday.

The CCFA said it expected French new car sales to be down by about 14 percent for 2012 as a whole to reach a 15-year low.

In November a total of 144,694 new cars were registered in France, the association said in a statement.

French car makers were among those that suffered the biggest drops.

Sales by PSA Peugeot Citroen, the second-biggest European auto manufacturer, were down by 22.9 percent in November and by 17.7 percent in the first 11 months of the year.

Sales by the Renault group plunged 33.5 percent in November and 21.7 percent for the 11 months.

The markets shrugged off the data, focussing instead on positive Chinese manufacturing data, with Paris' main stock index briefly rising above 3,600 to a one-year high.

Shortly before 1400 GMT the Paris CAC 40 was up 1.29 percent to 3,600.48 points

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