French consumer confidence improved slightly in April as assessments regarding the past and the future financial positions improved, but unemployment fears are still threatening households.

Results of the monthly consumer confidence survey conducted by the statistical office INSEE showed Tuesday that the sentiment indicator rose to minus 41 in April from a revised minus 42 in March. Economists had expected the indicator to log minus 43, which was the initial estimate for March.

In April, more households believed that their personal financial position improved and they were more optimistic about their future financial position. The measure for past personal financial position moved up to minus 27 from minus 28 and the outlook indicator improved to minus 18 from minus 20.

Households' assessment regarding the future living standards rose in April, although they were pessimistic regarding the past living conditions. About the timeliness of making major purchases, more consumers believe it's not wise to make major purchases this month.

Among other sub-indicators of the consumer confidence indicator, the gauge for households' unemployment outlook increased in April, to 82 from 78 in March.

Results of the latest quarterly business survey by the INSEE showed Tuesday that the fall of industrial manpower increased in the first quarter and it is expected to continue over the next three months. The survey also revealed that demand for French manufactured goods fell in the first quarter of 2009 and further fall is expected in the second quarter, but in a less pronounced way.

Late on Monday, France's Finance Ministry said unemployment increased 2.7% or 63,400 month-on-month to a total of 2.44 million in March. Most economists expect the country's unemployment rate to climb to around 10% by the next year from 8.2%.

The International Monetary Fund said in its latest world economic outlook that France's unemployment rate would increase to 9.6% in 2009 and then to 10.3% in 2010. It also said the French economy would contract 3% in 2009 before recovering by 0.4% in 2010.

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