French consumer spending fell unexpectedly sharply in January, official data showed on Friday, flagging a weak start to the year even before the coronavirus outbreak began taking its toll. The INSEE official stats agency said consumer spending, the traditional motor of the euro zone’s second-biggest economy, fell 1.1% in January from December. The drop crushed the average forecast for an increase of 0.1% in a Reuters poll of 14 economists in which none had expected anything lower than -0.6%. INSEE blamed much of the decrease on a sharp drop in sales of new cars as a government scheme to increase the price of more polluting vehicles took effect in January. As a result, the sale of transportation goods plunged 7.1% from December when it had increased 2.4% before the scheme took effect. While the January weakness was concentrated in car sales, the economy increasingly faces a […]