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The German economy was extremely stable over the course of 2015, although the volatile newsflow that ranged from the oil price shock, material euro exchange rate depreciation, “Dieselgate” right through to the refugee crisis could make one think otherwise. Driven by a 15-year high in private consumption growth economic output rose by more than 1 ½% in 2015, as already achieved in 2014. Economic growth is set to accelerate to nearly 2% in 2016, following a pretty stable trend over the course of the year. Private consumption should remain the most important growth driver. Public consumption will remain expansionary given the continued influx of refugees and resulting public spending. If refugees can be successfully integrated into the labour market, the refugee crisis will provide Germany's ageing society with a medium-term opportunity.
Industrial output in Germany is likely to expand by around 0.5% in real terms in 2015. For 2016, we expect growth close to zero. This means the sustained phase of relatively muted economic dynamics of industrial output seen since 2012 would continue. The rather stable development of producer prices in recent months also provides evidence that would indicate subdued industrial activity. Our forecast for industrial output implies that manufacturing’s share in total German gross value added will shrink for 2015 and 2016.
The logistics sector in Germany is characterised by innovative and diversified companies as well as very good location factors. There are, however, economic and structural factors which suggest that turnover growth will be relatively moderate over the next few years. Between 2003 and 2008 sector turnover grew by a nominal 4.6% per year. Following the recession, that is from 2009 to 2014, the growth rate dropped to 3.4% p.a. (while the inflation rate was somewhat lower). Over the next five years average annualised nominal turnover growth is likely to be more in the range of between 2% and 3%. This would propel sector turnover through the EUR 300 bn barrier. The logistics sector will remain a focus of state regulation; this is true particularly of the important transport segment.
In the German manufacturing sector real net fixed assets in 2013 were 0.8% lower than in 2000. Looking at the average, however, masks the fact that only four out of 19 manufacturing sectors expanded their capital stock compared with 2000. The major importance of the automotive industry is striking. Its net fixed capital formation exceeded that of all other manufacturing sectors combined between 1995 and 2006 and has done so since 2009. The auto industry boosted its real net fixed asset in Germany between 2000 and 2013 by nearly 38%. In the energy-intensive sectors, by contrast, the capital stock in Germany continues to shrink, a trend that has been ongoing for years. If economic policy conditions in Germany were to deteriorate in future, we would expect manufacturing companies to invest even more heavily abroad.
The influx of refugees has raised net immigration to Germany to the record level of more than one million. Among the OECD countries, this trend could put Germany ahead of the United States, traditionally the No. 1 destination country for migrants. As a result, Germany faces the difficult − and costly – Herculean task of integrating the refugees and absorbing the supply shock to the labour market. At the same time, the refugees represent an opportunity for rejuvenating an ageing population in Germany, where there is a growing scarcity of labour and the threat of lower structural growth. In our outlined win-win scenario, successful integration offers Germany the opportunity to consolidate its position as Europe’s economic powerhouse and to increase its attractiveness as an immigration country. A sustained high level of net immigration will attenuate the decline of the trend growth rate brought on by an ageing population. Instead of moving closer to stagnation, the trend growth could still amount to 1% in ten to 15 years as well, which would also benefit social systems.
Since the last Focus Germany, some disappointing economic data have been published that fuelled the speculations around a slowing German economy. We do not believe that this requires revisions of our GDP forecast, though. Just like last year, the weakness of the industrial data is overstated by holiday effects. Nevertheless, there is a risk of an even lower foreign demand than stated by our already cautious estimates. This, however, is balanced by the upward risks for the domestic economy. Due to the migration dynamics over the summer months, we are reducing our budget forecasts for 2015 and 2016. Relative to gross domestic product we now expect surpluses of 0.3% and 0.0%, respectively (previously 0.7% and 0.5%).
„... The question as to who has access to our data is becoming ever more important in light of current data collection and processing practices. Contrary to expectations, today's information society is primarily transparent in only one direction like a one-way mirror, with transparent users on one side and largely non-transparent, digital power centres on the other. No society in which ever more data is available at the global level is immune to cultural impoverishment and oppression....”
It will take many years to reduce the demand overhang in the housing market if there is not a huge jump in building activity. This harbours the risk that the current phase of prices returning to normal could first lead to overshooting and end in a market correction. This scenario comes with high economic costs. These could be avoided by improving depreciation conditions for newbuild housing in Germany's large cities and metropolitan regions.
Although the external and the financial environment have deteriorated we have lifted our 2016 GDP call to 1.9% (1.7%). Drivers are stronger real consumption growth due to lower oil prices/stronger EUR and the surge in immigration which should ceteris paribus add about ½ pp to consumption (split between private and public). The risks are mainly external (EMs). We lower our forecast for German inflation (national definition) in 2015 and 2016 to 0.3% and 1.3% from 0.5% and 2.0%. The relatively large adjustment for 2016 is due to the weaker inflation development in H2 2015 and due to our expectations of a weaker dynamic in 2016.