German economy may have shrunk in Q4 of last year

Updated: 2012-01-12 07:53

(China Daily)

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Weak global outlook, debt-stricken eurozone hampers foreign trade

FRANKFURT - The German economy probably contracted in the final quarter of 2011 as the sovereign debt crisis damped demand for exports.

Europe's largest economy shrank "roughly" 0.25 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said on Wednesday, adding it may revise its assessment by the time official data are published on Feb 15.

Growth slowed to 3 percent in 2011 from 3.7 percent in 2010, which was the most since German reunification two decades ago, the office said. Germany's budget deficit amounted to 1 percent of GDP last year.

German growth is slowing as the weak global economy and waning demand from debt-stricken eurozone neighbors erodes foreign sales. Germany may still be able to avoid a recession as the unemployment rate is at a two-decade low, supporting consumer spending.

"Last year was a good year even if the situation deteriorated toward the end of 2011," said Aline Schuiling, an economist at ABN Amro in Amsterdam.

"While the industrial sector has suffered a blow from the sovereign debt crisis, more resilient domestic demand could prevent the economy from contracting too strongly."

Domestic demand was the main contributor to GDP growth last year, adding 2.1 percentage points, the statistics office said. Private consumption increased 1.5 percent in the year, while government spending rose 1.2 percent. Investment in plant and machinery gained 8.3 percent.

Exports and imports

Net trade contributed 0.8 percentage point to growth, with exports up 8.2 percent and imports gaining 7.2 percent. In 2010 exports increased 13.7 percent.

Continental AG, Europe's second-biggest automobile parts maker, said on Dec 29 that revenue in the fourth quarter was slightly higher than in the third as the company's tire and electronics businesses grew faster than competitors.

At the same time, Fresenius Medical Care AG, the world's biggest provider of kidney dialysis, on Dec 20 cut its 2011 revenue estimate, blaming the weaker euro.

"Last year we had more and more evidence that the recovery was broadening out, with domestic demand and investment strong," said Jens Sondergaard, senior economist at Nomura International PLC in London.

"There's a constant tug-of-war between the positive of domestic demand and the negative drag of the sovereign debt crisis."

Bloomberg News

(China Daily 01/12/2012 page17)