France’s business activity was far above predictions in February, reaching close to a six-year high just two months before presidential elections. Services were particularly strong, according to the latest data. IHS Markit said its preliminary composite purchasing managers index jumped to 56.2 in February from 54.1 in January, the highest level since May 2011.
The increase beat economists’ expectations and marked the eight consecutive month that the index has been above the 50-point threshold, dividing an expansion from a contraction in activity.
“It’s a big surprise to see growth accelerate this markedly, especially in the run-up to a general election,” IHS Markit chief economist, Chris Williamson, said. “Expectations about the outlook are picking up with very few instances of companies saying they were worried about the election result on the economy.”
Economic growth of 0.6 percent in the first quarter would be the best quarterly rate in a year. The service sector index jumped to 56.7 from 54.1 in January against expectations for a slight dip to 53.8.