Economic growth should increase by 0.4% in France in the first quarter, thanks in particular to an improvement in the building sector, according to a first estimate unveiled Monday by the Bank of France.

This assumption, in line with the INSEE forecast, is up compared to the figure for the fourth quarter of 2018 (+ 0.3%), penalized in part by the movement of "yellow vests".

Activity in the building confirms its progress

The French central bank, which is based on this estimate on its monthly business survey, explains this slight rebound by the rise in demand in the building and the improvement of the outlook in industry and services.

In the building, the growth of activity was confirmed in January, particularly in the second work, thanks to order books "very well stocked", according to the monetary institution.

In the industrial sector, production declined, particularly in aeronautics, chemistry and metallurgy. But according to the business leaders interviewed by the Banque de France, activity should resume in February.

Services activity, meanwhile, slowed last month, with a notable decline in the interim and accommodation-catering, against a background of continued movement of "yellow vests". But "business leaders predict an acceleration of activity in February," after a steady decline in the past three months, says the Bank of France.

What about the effects of the 11 billion euros?

The growth figure for the first quarter is eagerly awaited by the government, which is hoping for a rebound in activity after four quarters of weak growth, thanks in particular to the measures announced against the movement of "yellow vests".

These measures, amounting in total to 11 billion euros, should indeed restore purchasing power to French households, and allow a rebound in consumption, the main driver of economic activity in the Hexagon.

But some economists fear that these purchasing power gains, which in 2019 should reach an average of 440 euros per household according to the OFCE, result in an increase in savings, with a limited effect on activity.

Government forecast looks optimistic

We have "a level of growth that remains strong despite European and global uncertainties," wanted to reassure Sunday the Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire, on the sidelines of an international forum in Dubai.

In its finance bill, the government has forecast growth of 1.7%. But Bruno Le Maire has recently suggested that this goal could be planed, because of the global economic slowdown.

In its latest forecast released last Thursday, the OECD has been betting on a 1.3% increase in gross domestic product (GDP) alone in 2019. The Bank of France, for its part, anticipates a growth of 1.5% .