The French economy grew by a stronger then expected 0.6% in the first quarter, official data showed today, driven by a surge in consumer spending and a pick-up in business investment. 

The brisker growth figures, which augured well for the government's 1.5% target for the full year, were the latest positive developments for the euro zone's second-largest economy.

French unemployment has finally started to decline and consumers are more optimistic despite strikes and protests. 

A poll of 15 analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast French gross domestic product (GDP) to remain at the 0.5% that INSEE had initially reported in its preliminary estimate. 

With the revised figure, it was only the second time in three years that growth came in above 0.5% in France. 

Growth in the quarter to the end of March was driven by a 1% surge in consumer spending, with INSEE revising sharply upward its March figure in a separate release, and a 1.6% increase in investment.

The strong increase in domestic demand offset a negative contribution from international trade, which shaved 0.2 percentage points off first-quarter GDP, although that was less than the 0.6 points it subtracted in the fourth quarter. 

Analysts say President Francois Hollande's 1.5% target for the full-year seems all but assured, barring any nasty surprise during the rest of the year.