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China-Europe relations are increasingly being shaped by the expanding bilateral exchange between China and Germany, its largest trading partner in the EU. Germany accounted for 45% of EU exports to China and 28% of EU imports from China in 2013. In the first nine months of 2014, EUR 114 bn worth of goods were shipped between the two countries, up 8% from the same period in 2013. Building on these well-established trade ties, China and Germany are now embarking on a concerted push to strengthen investment relations in sync with a surge in Chinese M&A activity into Germany.
Germany is constantly being accused of investing too little. Critics say this hurts Germany itself as well as other countries. This assertion enjoys broad support among (high-profile) economic researchers, international institutions such as the IMF and many lobbyists from the German business community. They see the extra public investment requirements running to 3% of GDP (per year!), with the going buzzword being the "investment gap". The government, in particular, has been called upon to significantly boost its investments in infrastructure. Even the disappointing GDP figures and lowered growth expectations of the past few months are now also being used to justify demands for a rapid increase in (public) investment. Hopes of growth stimuli for the neighbouring countries of Europe are playing a key role in many of these demands – especially at the high end of the demand scale.
Underlying growth of the German economy has slowed in Q3. After average quarterly growth rates of over 0.3% qoq in the last 1 ½ years, GDP expanded just 0.1% in Q3. We expect about stagnation in the next two quarters with a risk of a negative print as sentiment has weakened further in October/November. The little momentum of global trade since 2012 points towards structural changes, which will affect German exports in particular. German export growth should therefore remain relatively muted during the next few years. We forecast average real German export growth at the lower end of a range of 4%-6% between 2014 and 2019, which should be buttressed by a depreciation of the euro.
Innovation is one of the core values of Deutsche Bank. It helps us find sustainable solutions for our stakeholders and evolve our thinking about the future. This new magazine from Deutsche Bank Research represents such innovation.
German engineering firms must prepare to confront several trends over the medium term. The first of these is that a new, bipolar world of engineering markets is emerging. The United States and (once again) China are set to become especially promising centres of growth going forward. Further future trends are, secondly, the gradual shift in product focus towards customised system solutions; thirdly, the growing importance of not purely price-related competitive factors; and fourthly, the reconfiguration of the global division of labour in the engineering sector as the classic distinction between producer countries focusing on standard machinery and others focusing on speciality equipment becomes increasingly untenable. Provided that traditional suppliers to the manufacturing sector manage to spot the new mega-trends in good time, they will be able to build on these to develop promising strategies that enable them to adapt, survive and – ultimately – grow.
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.