RTTNews - French households' confidence in June rose more than expected to match the level last seen in March 2008, results of the latest consumer confidence survey conducted by statistical office INSEE showed Friday. Separately, the agency confirmed its preliminary estimate for the first quarter economic performance.

The consumer confidence index rose to minus 37 in June from minus 40 in May, while it was expected to rise to minus 39.

In June, households' opinion about their expected and past personal financial position went up. Corresponding indicators rose to minus 13 from minus 16 and to minus 23 from minus 28, respectively.

A gauge for households' assessment about their expected living standards slightly increased to minus 47 from minus 50. Similarly, an improvement was seen in their assessment regarding past living standards. Moreover, the balance on the timeliness of making major purchases grew for the second straight month in June.

These improvements strengthen the view that the pace of decline in economic activity is slowing. According to the final report from the INSEE, the economy confirmed a 1.2% contraction in the first quarter after a revised fall of 1.4% in the final quarter of 2008. On June 19, the statistical agency predicted that the economy is likely to stabilize in the fourth quarter of this year following contractions in previous six quarters.

However, households remained highly concerned about the rise in unemployment. The corresponding indicator climbed to 96 in June from 89 in May. A report from the Ministry of Labor and Employment showed Thursday that the number of unemployed in May rose 1.5% or 36,400 month-on-month to total 2.543 million.

With regard to prices, households have the feeling that prices rose slightly in the past and the increase would be low in the next months. According to INSEE forecasts, consumer price index would fall 0.4% in the second quarter, 0.5% in third quarter and then it is expected to rise 0.6% in the final quarter of the year.

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