The French economy grew 0.5% in the first quarter of 2016, the INSEE national statistics agency said in a preliminary estimate today. 

France's economy was boosted by the strongest increase in consumer spending since 2004 and the GDP figure was better than even the most optimistic forecast.  

In a preliminary reading of gross domestic product for the quarter, INSEE said the €2 trillion economy had accelerated from the 0.3% growth posted in the previous three months.

A pick-up in business investment helped to offset lower exports and stocks.

A poll of 30 analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast 0.4% growth for the euro zone's second-largest economy in the three months to March, with the lowest estimate at 0.1% and the highest at 0.4%. 

The data appeared to lend some credence to President Francois Hollande's assertion this month on prime-time television that "things are going better", coming at the end of a week that saw the number of jobless people drop by the most since the dot com boom.