French finmin: we will meet GDP and deficit goals

PARIS (Reuters) - French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said on Friday the government's targets for growth and deficit reduction were not being altered after data showed growth ground to a halt in the second quarter of 2011.

France's banks were among the soundest in the world, he added, in response to a fresh bout of financial market jitters that hit French financial shares particularly hard this week.

The European market regulator ESMA said late on Thursday France, Italy, Spain and Belgium were banning short-selling of stocks from Friday after a renewed bout of rumor-driven share price plunges this week in financial markets unsettled by the region's sovereign debt difficulties.

"I welcome this decision by the bourse watchdog to put short-selling on hold," Baroin said in an interview on RTL radio.

Regarding efforts to bolster market confidence, Baroin said:

"Investors should be in no doubt as to the determination of the government to reduce our deficits and debt."

(Reporting by Brian Love and Nick Vinocur, editing by Mike Peacock)