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French business climate improves in March as wholesale trade sentiment rebounds

The business climate in France improved slightly in March from the prior month, largely driven by a sharp rebound in sentiment in the wholesale trade sector, data from the country's National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies showed.

The composite indicator of French business managers' sentiment edged up to 104 in March from 103 in February. The business climate in the wholesale trade sector rebounded sharply, with the relevant bi-monthly indicator rising to 107 in March from 99 in January.

Business sentiment remained stable in the services and retail trade sectors, while confidence in the manufacturing industry dipped slightly and that in construction ticked up.

Meanwhile, the employment climate composite indicator came in at 108 in March, up from 107 in February. The rise reflects growth driven by improved business sentiment about the expected size of the workforce in the services sector, excluding temporary work agencies.

In a separate release, French GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2018 came in at 0.3%, the same pace of expansion in the previous quarter but higher than Banque de France's forecast of 0.2% growth for the period.