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Analysts: German downturn won't last

Published: 13 Jan 2013 09:10 GMT+01:00

For a long time, Germany managed to remain immune to the economic difficulties plaguing many of its closest neighbours thanks to the deep and painful structural reforms it undertook years earlier.

But it, too, has started to feel the pain from the crisis, according to a whole range of different data published in the later months of last year.

"The difficult international environment was a noticeable burden on the German economy," the Economy Ministry wrote in its latest monthly report on Friday, citing "substantial uncertainty arising from the euro area debt crisis" as well as other factors such as budget problems in the United States.

"Together with weakening demand for German exports, this is also hurting companies' investment plans. As a result, the growth momentum has slowed over the course of the year. Available indicators point to a noticeable contraction in economic output in the final quarter of 2012," the ministry said.

"Germany is an open and integrated economy so it is not surprising that a slowdown in the rest of the euro area has an impact here," European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said in November.

German growth has indeed been slowing throughout last year: from 0.5 percent in the first three months to 0.3 percent in the second quarter and 0.2 percent in the third.

Official fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data are scheduled for release on Tuesday. And economists are pencilling in a contraction from anywhere between 0.2-1.0 percent.

Economy Minister Philipp Rösler has already begun to prepare the markets for a contraction, warning of "weaker-than-expected" output and overall annual growth of 0.75 percent for the whole of 2012.

That is a long way from the buoyant growth of 4.2 percent and 3.0 percent that Germany notched up in 2010 and 2011 respectively. But it is also equally far from the 5.1-percent contraction seen in 2009.

Traditionally, German exports have been the main driver of growth, but they have also made the economy vulnerable to downturns in neighbouring eurozone countries.

In November, the value of German exports amounted to €94.1 billion, down from €98.4 billion in October.

ING Belgium economist Carsten Brzeski said it would "take a miracle" for Germany to avoid posting a GDP contraction in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Nevertheless, economists are confident that such a contraction would not be repeated in the first quarter of 2013, meaning Germany would successfully skirt a recession, which is technically defined as two consecutive quarters of declining GDP.

"The outlook will quickly brighten again," said the DIW research institute. The Economy Ministry thought so, too." Overall, the German economy is still very competitive and in good health," it said, pointing out that unemployment which is still close to historical lows will help buoy domestic demand.

Furthermore, with German-made goods still in demand outside the euro area, exports are unlikely to collapse completely.

"Given favourable sales prospects, companies will start to invest again, not least because of the very attractive level of interest rates at present," said DIW economist Simon Junker.

UniCredit analyst Andreas Rees was similarly confident that the outlook for 2013 was "considerably brighter."

The government, for its part, is pencilling in growth of around 1.0 percent for the current year.

AFP/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

10:10 January 13, 2013 by Englishted
There is too much book cooking with the unemployment figures to be used as any form of guide,and interest rates have been low in the €uro zone but there is no investment or growth in most countries.

Joseph Goebbels's legacy is still in place with none questioning German press.
10:39 January 13, 2013 by Dalmation
Just impose more austerity on the poorer countries and Angie might be able to put a spin that all is OK in Germany until the next election. The reality of the fact is Germany escaping recession so far is a lie. One only has to look at the amount of 400 EUR jobs filling the workplace as well as internships providing employers with very cheap labour. This results in a cycle that Germans have far less spending power than before. The only thing that saved Germany up till now was the weak Euro as opposed to the strong DM. Now those days are coming to an end. I am afraid Angie, you won't be able to click your heals this time to return from the land of Oz. Reality is really biting. You can only hope the German electorate don't call your bluff until after the election.
10:42 January 13, 2013 by smart2012
Ops, did not we say this one year ago? And Verkel + Bild kept saying Germany can stand alone? Germans, get rid of her, otherwise she will bring us to a disaster.. And believe less at Buba, which also played inflexible and one sided role on all of this.
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