Friday, November 7, 2008

Germany In Recession

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 7, 2008

BERLIN - GERMANY is being pummelled by the global economic slowdown and is already in recession, economists said on Thursday as data showed company order books in the world's top exporter emptying fast.

Orders for goods made in Europe's biggest economy plunged eight per cent in September from August, the economy ministry said, the steepest fall since East and West Germany reunited to become one country in 1990. Analysts called the slide 'disastrous'. The downturn, revealed a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a multi-billion-euro stimulus programme to try and avoid the worst effects of a global slowdown, was much worse than expected.

The data were released as the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank all slashed their main interest rates in a dramatic escalation of global efforts to stave off recession.

Orders from outside Germany, which accounts for a third of euro zone activity, slumped 11.4 per cent while domestic orders fell 4.3 per cent, with all sectors registering falls.

On a less volatile two-month comparison the decline was less dramatic, with orders in August and September off 1.4 per cent compared to June and July.

'All in all, the fall in orders experienced since December 2007 is accelerating. As a result, prospects for industrial production remain gloomy for the coming months,' the economy ministry said.

'Now that large parts of the industrialised world have already slipped into recession and others are likely to follow, new orders for German products are falling accordingly,' UBS economist Martin Lueck said, calling the data 'disastrous'.

Exports, which account for up half of Germany's economic output, will fall 2.5 per cent in 2009, which would be the worst performance since the recession of 1992-93, Mr Lueck predicted.

The numbers are 'another clear indication that the German economy is in a recession,' Commerzbank economist Simon Junker said.

The German economy shrank in the second quarter and GDP figures next Thursday are expected to confirm that output also fell in the July to September period, meaning the country is officially in recession.

But what Thursday's numbers prove is that conditions are going to get a lot worse, and that Germany has been hit hard since the mid-September bankruptcy of US banking giant Lehman Brothers pushed the global financial system close to collapse, economists said.

German industry 'is currently contracting at an unprecedented pace,' UBS's Lueck said.

This is borne out by a string of recent highly downbeat assessments of conditions in the real economy from German companies, not just car giants like BMW and Daimler but also in other sectors. Sportswear firm Adidas on Thursday said that uncertainty was so high it could not give a forecast for 2009.

Berlin has slashed its 2009 growth forecast to just 0.2 per cent, the slowest rate of growth since Germany last suffered a recession in 2003.

Third-quarter growth figures are due to be published next Thursday. -- AFP

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