The French private sector has started shrinking again

November has seen one measure of French private sector activity - Markit's composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) - fall to reveal a contraction for the first time in three months.

Coming in at 48.5, the PMI figure has dropped from 50.5. Any number below 50 implies a contraction. Things are bad in both services and manufacturing, falling to four and six month lows respectively.

Berenberg's chief economist Holger Schmieding called France "the real sick man of Europe", after trade data released last week saw France experience the biggest outwards trade drop in goods among the Eurozone's big four economies between January and August.

Markit's employment measure has also dropped across both sectors - suggesting that hiring conditions are deteriorating.

Last week also saw the news that French GDP had fallen by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter - Diego Iscaro, senior economist at IHS Global Insight, pointed to "a steady loss in external competitiveness", "a dysfunctional labour market" and a pension system "in need of a radical reform".