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ECONOMY

Business sentiment hits all-time low for December

Business sentiment dropped in Germany for the seventh straight month to a record low point of 82.6 points in December, the key Ifo index showed on Thursday, while business activity fell sharply across the 15-nation eurozone.

Business sentiment hits all-time low for December
Photo: DPA

The monthly business climate index calculated by Munich-based economic research institute Ifo fell in December from 85.8 points in the previous month.

The previous all-time low of 84.8 points had been set in February 1993.

Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected the business sentiment indicator to fall to 84.1 points.

A sub-index of the Ifo survey that measures the current situation in Germany was also lower at 88.8 points, compared with 94.9 in October, while expectations for the next six months also dropped to a record low of 76.8 points from 77.6 points, the institute said.

Analysts had forecast levels of 91.7 and 77.2 points, respectively.

On Tuesday, a eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for December compiled by data and research group Markit fell to 38.3 points, its lowest level in the survey’s 10-year history.

Markit said that the index’s fall marked the seventh month running of contraction in private sector output, which is indicated by a reading of less than 50 points.

In Germany, the world’s leading exporter, the auto and chemical sectors have been especially hard hit by the global economic slowdown, throwing it and the eurozone into a recession that is likely to last well into 2009.

Deputy economy minister Walther Otremba told AFP on Wednesday that Germany might see economic activity contract by up to 3.0 percent next year, which would mark the worst recession in its post-war history.

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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