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We have cut our German GDP growth forecast from 1.5% to 1.3% for 2014 and further from 1.5% to 0.8% for 2015. We do not see Germany falling into a technical recession in Q3. But the 6 month slump of the ifo index has increased the risk that we might see a negative GDP print in Q4 2014 or Q1 2015. The positive effect of weaker oil prices will be offset by wage growth slowing from 3% plus this year towards 2% in 2015, as export-orientated sectors will respond to weaker external demand. Further topics in this issue: German industry: Temporary slowdown; German construction: Robust investment, but price momentum slowing; Inheritance tax: Constitutional Court ruling likely to weigh harder on business heirs; 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: "Blooming landscapes" only in part.
Following weak performance in winter half-year 2014/15 industrial production in Germany is likely to return to a moderate uptrend in the course of 2015, resulting in expansion of roughly 1.5% in real terms in 2014 and about ¾% in 2015. This means the generally muted dynamics of industrial performance in evidence since 2011 would continue in 2015. Industry's share in total German gross value added (2013: 21.8%) will probably decline again, as in 2012 and 2013. The only moderate growth of industry is primarily attributable to the currently subdued level of business activity and external shocks. Nonetheless, structural factors are going to regain importance. The ball is now in the politicians' court. Many of their recently adopted measures give rise to fears that Germany's international competitiveness as an industrial location is likely to decline.
Why are German wages/inflation not responding? Much of the answer lies in cultural factors and personal traits which manifest themselves in a high aversion to inflation. This in turn has led to Germany’s unique economic fundamentals and institutions. At the core it seems that Germans and German society can handle distribution conflicts involving time inconsistency problems better, on average, than many other nations. Given the German peculiarities the ECB has more time to run its supportive policy without creating new imbalances in the largest EMU economy. Therefore the ECB has scope to extend its balance sheet via private and most likely public QE.
The German government has invited interested parties to a National IT Summit. High-ranking figures from the political, business and academic arenas will meet to tackle the following assignment: “Working and living with digital change – together.innovative.self-determined”. At the summit specific tasks are to be designated in order to boost Germany's capabilities in the area of information and communication technologies. The issues of broadband expansion and Industry 4.0 are pivotal to this assignment. Bold ideas and commitment are urgently required, but not intervention in competition taken for the sake of appearances. The objective is that decisive progress is made with digitalisation in Germany away from the summit limelight as well.
The opportunities provided by digital structural change are being talked up heavily, and the shape they will take over the long term can only be guessed at. Today, everyone can participate interactively in digital spaces as long as they have access to the internet. Flexible and varied relationships are formed between people and their diverse identities in the online and offline worlds. Experimental forms of participation and collaboration will become more important in the medium term, which will continually influence the value creation process in many firms. Digitalisation is thus changing our social and economic lives as well as the way that we interact with one another and how we (have to learn to) handle (personal) data in future.
The recent positive surprises provided by real economic indicators have for now banished concerns that Germany might slide into recession in Q3. However, the ongoing geopolitical risks and the question marks hanging over the expected cyclical upturn will probably lead to weaker growth in exports and company investment. That is why we have scaled back our growth forecast for the winter half-year 2014/2015. Thus, we have lowered our forecast from 1.8% to 1.5%. In our current issue we also address Germany’s fiscal position, we analyse the consequences of potential Russian gas supply disruptions and we take a look at the investment behaviour of German households.
At a time when there are increasing voices demanding a more flexible interpretation of the Maastricht deficit rules, German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble has presented his budget plan, which does without any new federal debt between 2015 and 2018. This comes much to the chagrin of France, where his colleague Michel Sapin has been forced to admit that this year’s deficit will be at least 4.3% of GDP and that meeting the 3% target needs to be postponed for the third time until 2017 at the earliest.
German GDP only 1 ½% in 2014, considerable risks for 2015. We have scaled back our GDP forecast for 2014 from 1.8% to 1 ½%, as we now expect weaker growth in H2. This also reduces our forecast for 2015 from 2.0% to 1.8%. The risks that this still constitutes an overly optimistic forecast have increased significantly. The German investment cycle will likely be more subdued than expected due to the ongoing weakness of world trade and increasing geopolitical strains. Even the hitherto still robust private consumption is emitting its first warning signs.
The opening of the rail transport market has helped to significantly boost the share of non-federally owned railways in regional passenger transport (2013: 26.4%) and freight transport (33.2%). Performance in these two segments has increased in recent years, too. The factors necessary to enable a continuation of this trend are higher investment in rail infrastructure and dependably predictable grants for regional transport.