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French consumer confidence holds steady in August

FILE PHOTO: Tourist wearing protective masks enter a duty free shop in Paris as the country is hit by the new coronavirus, France, January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - French consumer confidence held steady in August as unemployment fears eased further in the euro zone’s second-biggest economy, a survey from the INSEE statistics agency showed on Wednesday.

INSEE’s consumer confidence index held at 94, unchanged from July and in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of 14 economists.

Households’ concerns about unemployment fell to their lowest level since April when France was still in a two-month coronavirus lockdown that ended May 11.

France has avoided a major spike in permanent unemployment as companies put workers on state-subsidised furloughs en masse.

While households’ general economic outlook was stable, it remained far below the survey’s long-term average. The number of people who said it was a good time to save money rose while those prepared to make big purchases fell.

With most stores and restaurants closed, French households built up an extra 100 billion euros ($118 billion) in savings during the lockdown.

The government wants to convince consumers to spend the cash to fuel a recovery after France’s worst post-war recession in the first half of the year.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Jason Neely

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