French output figures confirm turn for worse

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PARIS (Reuter) - French industrial production fell by 4.5 per cent in November, confirming that the economy took a turn for the worse late last year.

The National Statistics Institute, Insee, blamed the decline mainly on a 12 per cent slide in energy output.

But officials said the drop in energy production was due in part to weak demand for electricity from industrial customers bearing the brunt of the economic slowdown.

Production of food, semi-finished goods, investment equipment, cars and consumer goods also fell. The construction industry also remained weak.

The slide in output in November, which was much steeper than expected and followed a 0.7 per cent rise in October, left production 3.8 per cent lower than in November 1991.

The weak industrial performance in November, following rises in unemployment in October and November, was further evidence for private economists that the economy probably stagnated in the final quarter of the year. That could leave growth for the whole of 1992 slightly short of the government's target of 2 per cent.

Pierre Beregovoy, the Prime Minister, has acknowledged that growth this year is likely to be nearer the 1.6 per cent forecast by the International Monetary Fund than the 2.6 per cent projected by his government in September.

Ministers have insisted that would still not be a bad performance given the glum international climate. Martin Malvy, the budget minister, said yesterday that even with 1.6 per cent growth France would still be above the European average.