PARIS - France's preliminary third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) rose 3% to beat market forecasts, the national statistics office said, as a pick-up in consumer spending and exports boosted the euro zone's second-biggest economy.

Third-quarter growth of 3% was above a forecast of 2.1% in a Reuters poll of 24 analysts.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio the figure was an "exceptional result" that showed the economy was heading in the right direction. 

The INSEE national statistics agency added that the third-quarter growth meant France's economy was close to getting back to its level before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Analysts at investment bank ING hailed the third-quarter figures as "excellent news" but warned they could represent a peak for the year, as the global economy battles inflationary concerns and supply chain problems.

"The third-quarter level of growth is probably the highest we will see in France for 2021 and 2022," they wrote. "The peak has been reached and from now on, economic growth will start to slow."

INSEE has forecast the French economy to grow 6.25% for 2021.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez) ((; +33 1 49 49 53 84;))