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Industry: ‘doped’ growth boosting economy

The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warned on Thursday that a fresh burst of economic confidence might be unfounded, even as they raised their growth projections for 2015.

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy
A man assembling food processors in a Wuppertal factory. Photo: DPA

Activity in the German economy should grow by 1.8 percent in 2015, rather than 1.3 percent as previously predicted, DIHK said.

But they argue that the improved figures were mostly due to one-off effects including low oil prices and interest rates and the weakness of the Euro against other currencies.

“This is a doped and borrowed upturn,” DIHK boss Martin Wannsleben said in Berlin.

The Euro's weakness against the US dollar has added around  one percent to growth by making German products cheaper outside the eurozone.

And cheap oil has boosted growth by an estimated 0.7 percent, while low interest rates have made life easier for the construction and housing sectors.

Wansleben said those effects were masking a lack of competitiveness in the German economy.

Current good times are being sustained by shopping-happy consumers, who feel increasingly secure thanks to the good economic news.

But there is a strong possibility that growth might fall back below 0.5 percent.

“For every peak, there's always a trough,” Wansleben said. “Then we'll be rubbing our eyes.”

He targeted the government for special criticism, saying that special measures such as the introduction of the minimum wage couldn't be repeated or Germany would tempt fewer foreign investors in the future.

An expected 250,000 more people employed this year over last year was “a bit disappointing,” DIHK chief economist Alexander Schumann said.

A DIHK survey of more than 23,000 companies showed that managers remain optimistic, with plans to invest more and hire more people.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Economic Research (DIW) released projections of 0.5 percent GDP growth in the second quarter of this year, an increase over the 0.3 percent gain between January and March.

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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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