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ECONOMY

German and EU officials speak up against panic

High level EU politicians have cautioned against panic after two days of turbulence on the financial markets. Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and Euro group president said that while he is not ruling out the possibility of a recession in the US, he does not believe that the credit crisis will necessarily mean a slowdown for the Eurozone economy. He warned about exaggerated pessimism late Monday and said “In comparison to the US, the fundamental data in Europe is solid.”

Juncker said the financial turbulence will only have a limited impact on the European economy. He described the situation on the financial markets as characterized by “high volatility and high uncertainty.” However, he said that the results seen in the financial markets over the past two days should not be applied to the economy as a whole. “One must first filter out the irrational element,” he added. “Europe has done its homework until now.”

German Minister for Economics and Technology and member of the centre-right CSU party, Michael Glos, also warned of exaggerated panic in the wake of stock market losses. “Naturally there is cause to be nervous,” said Glos. He warned, however, that too much anxiety will lead to unnecessary collateral damage. “I don’t see that we are approaching a rapid, drastic depression. Rather I see growth opportunities for the world economy,” said Glos, urging people to focus on economic data.

The DAX, an index of the top 30 German companies, sank 7.1% to 6790 points on Monday.

ECONOMY

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.

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With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.

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