December 7, 2018 / 9:32 AM / 9 days ago

French industry, exports firm in October before protests

Employees work with pieces of leather at a workshop at the shoemaker J.M. Weston factory in Limoges, France, November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

PARIS (Reuters) - French industrial rose by more than forecast in October and the trade balance narrowed sharply on a surge in exports, in a sign the euro zone’s second-biggest economy was in fine form before anti-government protests hit this month.

Industrial production rose by 1.2 percent in October from September, according to data from the INSEE national statistics office on Friday, beating economists’ average forecast for an expansion of 0.7 percent in a Reuters poll.

Separate customs data showed that the trade deficit narrowed to 4.1 billion euros ($4.7 billion) in October, the smallest deficit since July and much smaller than the 6.0 billion euros expected by economists.

Exports jumped 6.2 percent from September as Airbus delivered 41 aircraft while cruise ships were sent to clients. Imports rose 2.5 percent.

Though the data suggests the French economy started the final quarter on a firm footing, growth is unlikely to keep up the momentum heading into the end of the year, economists say.

Protests by a grassroots movement against the high cost of living are upsetting some manufacturing supply chains and violent clashes mostly in Paris have caused retailers to miss out on peak shopping days.

Prior to the protests, most economists had been expecting growth to pick up at the end of the year after a weak first half as tax cuts aimed at boosting purchasing power took effect.

($1 = 0.8795 euros)

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Leigh Thomas; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Jon Boyle

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