Many investors understandably have not focused on France. The threat of scandal in Spain, the need for yet another round of government support for Italy's third largest bank and the country's upcoming election have commanded attention. What seems to have been a free ride for France may be coming to an end.
Even though the German economy contracted twice as much as the French economy in Q4, we learned this week, the implications for France are greater. Recent data suggests that the German economy has stabilized and may be expanding albeit slowly this quarter. French data continues to disappoint. This is particularly important because the French government's growth forecast for this year is optimistic, well above the consensus.