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French debt higher than expected

France's deficit shrank less than expected last year and debt continued to grow to 93.5% of GDP, the state statistics agency has said.

The figures released today are the latest sign of trouble for the unpopular Socialist government, which is expected to be replaced imminently.

The Socialists suffered a blow in nationwide municipal elections yesterday amid widespread disappointment at President Francois Hollande's handling of the stagnant economy and persistently high unemployment.

The Insee statistics agency said the deficit was 4.3% in 2013, above the 4.1% the government had promised and above EU targets.

The French economy avoided sinking into a new recession, growing 0.3% in the fourth quarter, up from a 0.1% drop in the previous quarter. But the overall prospects for growth are slow.

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