PARIS - France's economy growth unexpectedly ground to a halt in the first quarter as consumer spending dropped in the face of soaring energy prices and war in Ukraine, preliminary data from the INSEE official stats agency showed on Friday.

Preliminary data showed no change in gross domestic product (GDP) for January-March, marking a sharp slowdown from the final three months of 2021, when the euro zone's second-biggest economy expanded 0.8%, which was revised up from 0.7% previously.

While a slowdown had been expected, the reading was worse than expectations for growth of 0.3% in a Reuters poll of 24 economists, whose forecasts ranged from 0.6% to -0.1%.

Household spending, the traditional driver of French growth, fell 1.3% in the quarter amid waning consumer confidence.

The government has put together a 25 billion euro ($26.3 billion) package of measures to help protect consumers' dwindling purchasing power and consisting in large part of caps on gas and electricity price increases.

But that did not stop the cost of living from being a major theme in France's presidential election this month, which incumbent Emmanuel Macron won on Sunday by beating far right leader Marine Le Pen.

Macron has indicated that his first steps after June legislative elections will include further measures to help consumers such as subsidies for people on low incomes who have to use their cars and an increase in pensions.

INSEE's GDP report said that domestic demand subtracted 0.6 percentage points from first-quarter growth, while business inventory rebuilding added 0.4 points and foreign trade added another 0.1 points.

($1 = 0.9491 euros)

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Kim Coghill)