The French economy grew only 0.2% in the second quarter after stalling in the first three months of the year, the French central bank said today, while the trade deficit widened in May from the previous month. 

France's recovery is falling behind other euro zone countries as data shows the euro zone's second biggest economy failing to pick up speed. 

President Francois Hollande has sought to stimulate growth and hiring by pushing through big payroll tax cuts designed to make companies more competitive, but the effects have yet to show in economic data. 

The Bank of France's estimate was unchanged from a previous projection, which also pegged growth during the period from April through June at 0.2%.

Underscoring a lag with Germany, which has a hefty current account surplus, France's trade deficit widened in May to €4.9 billion from €4.1 billion the previous month, data from the customs office showed. 

The weak start to the year risks derailing the French government's forecast for 1% growth this year, upon which it has built its budget. 

Any shortfall could put France's deficit-cutting promises to its EU partners at risk. 

The central bank updated its growth estimate in its monthly business climate report, which put its measure of morale in the industrial sector as unchanged - at 97 - from May. A figure below 100 is below the long term average.

Confidence in the services sector was also flat - at 93 - compared with the previous month. 

Separately, the Finance Ministry said the budget deficit had fallen to €64.3 billion at the end of May from a deficit of €72.6 billion a year earlier.