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French Economy to Return to Pre-Crisis Peak in 2013, Insee Says

France’s economic output will rebound for the first time this year to the level before the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., national statistics office Insee said.

After expanding 0.5 percent in the second quarter, gross domestic product will probably be unchanged in the July-to-September period before rising 0.4 percent in the year’s last three months, the national statistics office said in its latest forecast. For 2013, Insee predicts growth of 0.2 percent.

Consumer spending and exports are helping revive Europe’s second-largest economy after two years of stagnation, and growth will probably get a boost from investment in the final three months of this year, according to the forecast. While that makes France the second major European economy with Germany to return to its pre-crisis peak, the recovery remains fragile.

“The sky continues to clear but the clouds are still present,” Cedric Audenis, Insee’s chief forecaster, told journalists. “At this stage we’ve had one good quarter, the second quarter, and the data for the third isn’t great.”

The drop in non-government payrolls will slow in coming months and the unemployment rate will peak at 11 percent in the fourth quarter, Insee predicted.

Investment spending by companies will increase 0.3 percent in the final three months of the year, the first time it has grown since the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the forecasts.

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