The EU Just Lost Another Prop: France’s Economy is Crumbling
By Graham Summers
Thursday, 29 November 2012
Meanwhile, as Greece continues to distract the markets, France, the other primary prop for the EU besides Germany, is now experiencing an economic contraction on par with that of 2008-2009.
Indeed, France’s September’s auto sales numbers were worse than those of September 2008 (the month Lehman collapsed). The country’s PMI reading is back to April 2009 levels. Even the French Central Bank, which would hold off as long as possible before unveiling bad news, has announced the country will re-enter recession before year-end.
Over the past few weeks, an extraordinary cry of alarm has risen from chief executives who warn that the French economy has gone dangerously off track. In an interview to be published on Nov. 15 in the magazine l’Express, Chief Executive Officer Henri de Castries of financial-services group Axa (CS:FP) warns that France is rapidly losing ground, not only against Germany but against nearly all its European neighbors. “There’s a strong risk that in 2013 and 2014, we will fall behind economies such as Spain, Italy, and Britain,” de Castries says.
On Nov. 5, veteran corporate chieftain Louis Gallois released a government-commissioned report calling for “shock treatment” to restore French competitiveness. And on Oct. 28, a group of 98 CEOs published an open letter to Hollande that said public-sector spending, which at 56 percent of gross domestic product is the highest in Europe, “is no longer supportable.” The letter was signed by the CEOs of virtually every major French company. (The few exceptions included utility Electricité de France, which is government controlled.)