France's consumer price inflation slowed to the lowest in two-and-a-half years in March on slower increases in food and energy prices, flash data from the statistical office INSEE showed on Friday.

The consumer price index, or CPI, posted an annual increase of 2.3 percent in March, following February's 3.0 percent rise.

The rate was the weakest since September 2021, when the figure was 2.2 percent. Consumer prices were forecast to climb 2.6 percent in March.

The annual decrease reflects the slowdown in year-on-year growth rates in food, services, tobacco, and energy and manufactured product prices.

Food inflation slid notably to 1.7 percent from 3.6 percent. Similarly, energy prices grew 3.4 percent, much slower than the 4.3 percent increase a month ago.

Manufactured product price growth weakened to 0.1 percent from 0.4 percent. Services costs advanced 3.0 percent, following a 3.2 percent rise in February.

Month-on-month, the CPI gained only 0.2 percent after rising 0.9 percent in February. The figure was also weaker than economists' forecast of 0.5 percent.

Data showed that harmonized inflation weakened to 2.4 percent in March from 3.2 percent in the previous month. Inflation was seen at 2.8 percent.

Over one month, the harmonized consumer price index, or HICP, rose 0.3 percent after a 0.9 percent gain in the previous month. Final data is due on April 12.

Another data from the statistical office showed that household spending remained flat in February as the decrease in energy consumption was counterbalanced by the rise in food consumption and engineered goods spending.

Household consumption was forecast to climb 0.3 percent after declining 0.6 percent in January.

Separately, the statistical office said producer prices decreased for the third consecutive month in February.

Producer prices in the domestic market slid 5.5 percent, following January's 4.9 percent fall. They were 28 percent above their 2021 average level.

On a monthly basis, producer prices dropped 1.7 percent after declining 1.0 percent in January.

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