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French press review 03 January 2013

In French newspapers today: problems facing the French government, what happens now that America has avoided falling off the fiscal cliff, the dangers posed by oral contraceptives, and the crisis in the French car industry.


Left-leaning Libération is as relieved as the rest of us that Barack Obama managed an extra-time deal with the Republicans to save the US economy from going belly-up. But, having saved the nation and the world from the "cliff", Obama now risks plunging us all into the "gulf", because this week's deal has not reduced the US national debt by one single cent, and the whole drama will have to be played over again before the next cut-off date, which is 1 March.

Special dossier

In case you're wondering, the United States national debt limit, which was reached on Monday, is 16 million, 394 thousand, million dollars.

That's 16 trillion sponduliks.

The problem, according to Libé's harsh editorial analysis, is that US politicians are powerless in the face of such awe-inspiring mountains of money. The Republicans want to protect the rich from any increase in taxation; the Democrats are trying to create a minimal version of a welfare state, without having the money to finance it. The lords of the stock exchange profit from the political paralysis, prooving themselves, once again, the real masters of the situation.

Speaking of stock exchange profits, that's what right wing Le Figaro and Catholic La Croix have on their front pages.

La Croix offers to explain why the stock market is so buoyant, despite the abiding atmosphere of crisis. The combined value of the top forty French companies rose by 15 per cent last year; the struggling Irish saw share values rise by 17 per cent, while the debt-riddled Greeks, who need to borrow the makings of a miserable mousaka from Brussels, were able to boost share prices on the Athens exchange by 33 per cent.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Bank stocks are the big winners, as investors profit from the fact that the Eurpean Central Bank will bail out any failures. Luxury goods come next, forcing the question of just how serious the crisis really is. Clearly, not everyone is suffering the same privations.

Right-wing Le Figaro advises its far from poverty-stricken readers on the best ways to invest their money over the next 12 months. Get thee to the stock exchange is the simple message: Paris is expected to follow last year's 15 per cent increase with a further 12 per cent this year.

But you'd be well advised to avoid state-owned companies like the electricity and gaz producers, or France Telecom. The first two are struggling because the government is insisting they keep energy prices down. The old telephone monopoly is in trouble because they still charge too much and have failed to carry their old market dominence into the mobile revolution.

You might also limit your investment in French car companies. Shares in Renault did very well last year, with a 52 per cent increase in the basic price. But that's no reflection of car sales here in France.

Sales of new cars sank to their lowest levels since 1997 last year, with Peugeot-Citroën and Renault all losing market share faster than foreign-built competitors.

French vehicle construction has already been cut by half over the past decade, and that treand is unlikely to be reversed anytime soon, with China expected to produce more motor cars in 2013 than the entire European Community.


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