French consumer confidence in October fell back below its long-term average on Wednesday as households fretted about the impact of rising prices on their ability to save in the future.
Six months from a presidential election, the data will be closely watched by the government which has tried in recent weeks to cap energy and electricity prices and help lower income families pay winter heating bills and cope with inflation.
The INSEE official statistics agency said consumer sentiment fell 2 points to 99 in October from 101 in September. Fourteen analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a figure of 101 for the October reading.
Inflation In Europe
Spiralling energy prices have led to a pick-up in inflation in Europe. Prime Minister Jean Castex last week announced a €100 grant to help lower income families cushion the pain of rising gas, electricity and gasoline prices.
The grant was on top of an expansion of France's voucher scheme to aid households with their heating costs during cold winter months and curbs on electricity rates.
Even so, some families say they are cutting back on groceries, refuelling their cars less and using the heating more sparingly to make ends meet.
The INSEE data showed a sharp fall (-9 points) in household's confidence in their ability to save and a more moderate dip in sentiment about their future outlook.
On a more positive front for President Emmanuel Macron, consumer concerns about unemployment again fell heavily as the economy bounces back from the COVID pandemic.
In August, consumer confidence eased marginally despite a surge in coronavirus cases and new rules requiring a health pass to enter many retail outlets.