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BUSINESS

Business confidence at seven-month high

Germany, Europe's top economy, appears to have put the worst of the region's debt crisis behind it, data showed Friday, with business confidence rising to its highest level in seven months.

Business confidence at seven-month high
Photo: DPA

The Ifo institute’s closely watched business climate index for Europe’s top economy rose to 104.2 points in January – its highest reading since June – from 102.4 points a month earlier.

Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires had been pencilling in a more modest rise to 103.0 points. “The German economy made a promising start to the new year,” said Ifo president Hans-Werner Sinn.

“The Ifo business climate rose for the third time in succession. Assessments of the current business situation were somewhat more positive after deteriorating last month. Future business prospects improved considerably,” Sinn said.

Ifo calculates its headline index on the basis of companies’ assessments of their current business and the outlook for the next six months.

The sub-index measuring current business rose to 108.0 points in January, making good the slight decline seen last month. And the outlook sub-index jumped to 100.5 points, its highest reading since May.

“The German economy has put the crisis behind it,” said Berenberg Bank economist Christian Schulz.

“Germany is roaring back to growth in the new year 2013.” Official gross domestic product (GDP) data showed that Germany turned in its weakest growth in four years in 2012, with an estimated contraction of around 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter alone.

But there is growing consensus that the dip in growth will prove shortlived.

Already earlier this week, the ZEW investor sentiment index soared to the highest levels since the start of the eurozone debt crisis in 2010 as the German economic outlook looks ever brighter.

And on Thursday, another forward-looking indicator, the purchasing managers’ index (PMI), notched up its strongest growth in a year. “Signs are growing that the German economy could be heading for a V-shaped rebound in the first quarter of 2013 after output contracted in the fourth quarter of last year,” Schulz said.

“The confidence rebound may still take some time to feed through to hard data such as industrial production, but the fact that all surveys (PMIs, ZEW) and financial indicators point in the same direction inspires confidence in an economic rebound,” the expert said.

According to the Ifo data, almost all sectors of the economy experienced a boost, with industry, services and construction leading the way.

Schulz believed that Germany is “heading for another extended growth period. This will also help its eurozone partners to export their way out of trouble.”

“The crisis is over – at least in Germany and at least if one believes in the forecasting power of the Ifo,” said ING Belgium economist Carsten Brzeski.

“All in all, today’s Ifo index nicely illustrates the green shoots in the German economy. Even if the current harsh winter weather might delay the blossoming out somewhat, growth should return, leaving the contraction of the fourth quarter quickly behind,” he said.

But Capital Economics economist Ben May was not quite so optimistic.

“January’s rise in the Ifo survey provides further hope that the estimated sharp fall in fourth-quarter GDP will be a one off,” he said.

“Nonetheless, given that the effects of the recent appreciation of the euro are unlikely to have been fully felt by exporters, it is too early to conclude that Germany will record a strong and sustained expansion in 2013,” May cautioned.

AFP/jcw

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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