PARIS: Advertising agencies in France remain largely cautious about their trading prospects in the short term at least, new data has shown.

According to the Bank of France's regular index of corporate perceptions, business sentiment in the country stood at 102 points in February, down by two points compared with the previous month.

Within this, companies in the services sector delivered an average score of 90 points, suggesting an overall contraction in the market, although this figure was ten points better than 12 months ago.

The ad agencies that took part in the poll revealed that their general "activity" was essentially unchanged in February on an annual basis.

While levels of demand were given a slightly more positive assessment, on three points, prices were down by two points, and headcounts were off by 12 points.

Looking forward, agencies afforded their prospects for March a positive rating of one point, and most also claimed to have strong cash positions.

Indeed, their collective score of 21 points on this measure was the highest recorded across the services category as a whole.

Overall, the Bank of France forecast that national GDP would rise by 0.4% in the first quarter of this year, and by 1.4% for the whole of 2010.

Data sourced from Bank of France/Market News International; additional content by Warc staff