The French economy grew 0.3% in the third quarter as consumer spending picked up.

But weak foreign trade prevented a stronger lift-off from the stagnation of the previous three months, data showed today.

The quarter-on-quarter increase matched a consensus from analysts polled by Reuters and showed a four-year run of weak growth was at an end, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said. 

But many had hoped for an even higher number after strong industrial output earlier this week.

A sharp rise in imports, especially of oil products, and a drop in exports were the main drag on the €2 trillion economy, the INSEE national statistics agency said, with foreign trade knocking 0.7 percentage points off output. 

Inventories also boosted the headline figure, rising 0.7 percentage points after a 0.4 point drop in the previous three months. 

Consumer spending rose 0.3% after stagnating in the second quarter. 

Investment by households, mainly housing purchases and one of the biggest drags on the French recovery in the last few years, continued to shrink, but the rate of decline slowed to 0.5% from 1.1%. 

Similarly, the fall in construction sector investment eased to 0.8% from 1%. Investment in manufacturing goods rose by 0.8%.

The GDP carry-over from the first nine months of the year of 1.1% means the French government's 1% growth forecast for the year is all but assured, barring nasty surprise in the final quarter. 

"We have therefore been prudent with our 1% growth forecast for the year. So much the better," Sapin said in a statement. 

"The GDP figure confirms that we have left in 2015 the period of very weak growth that France had experienced since 2011," he said.

Growth for the first and second quarters was confirmed at 0.7% and 0%, INSEE said.