Germany has entered a recession

By Le Figaro with AFP



The activity of the first European economy went into recession in the first quarter, after two quarters of decline in a row. A first for the country since the pandemic.

Activity in Germany, the largest European economy, entered recession in the first quarter, a temporary weakness according to the government, but which is nevertheless against the trend of the rest of Europe. Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.3% between January and March over one quarter, after a decline of 0.5% between October and December, in data adjusted for seasonal and calendar variations, indicated Thursday the National Institute of Statistics. This is a recession in the technical sense, that is to say two quarters of decline in a row. This is a first since the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a fall in German GDP in the first and second quarters of 2020. Over one year, the indicator fell by 0.5%. This final figure revises downwards a previous estimate from the end of April which rather indicated a stagnation (0.0%) in activity.

Winter recession

It’s no surprise, though the scale of this overhaul is frightening.commented Jens Oliver Niklasch, analyst for LBBW. German industry, long dependent on cheap Russian gas, was hit hard last year after Moscow invaded Ukraine. Supplies were cut and prices soared. Despite this, the economy seemed to hold up better than expected at the start of the year, thanks to mive public aid, increased use of liquefied gas and the start of drop in gas prices since the fall. The industry also benefited from the reopening of China and an easing of supply difficulties on international markets, boosting exports. The prospect of a recession seemed to be receding. But “this optimism has given way to more realism (…) Germany has indeed fallen into a winter recessioncommented Carsten Brzeski, expert for ING bank. The publication of various economic indicators for the month of March illustrated this.

After several months of increases, production in the manufacturing sector, central to the German economic model, fell by 3.4% over one month. In particular, motor vehicle production fell by 6.5% and construction by 4.6%. Industrial orders also fell sharply in March, by 10.7% over one month, unheard of since the trough of the pandemic. And exports, essential for this sector, fell sharply, to 5.2%

“Black sheep”

This turnaround is due in particular to the decline in domestic consumption due to inflation. This remains very high, at more than 7.2% in April despite a gradual decrease. Key rate hikes led by the European Central Bank (ECB) to combat this price rise have driven home the point, considerably slowing down activity. Abroad, the country’s trading partners imported fewer products “made in germany” than usual. In question : “geopolitical turmoil, high inflation rates and loss of purchasing power“, according to the economic institute DIHK. Despite this slowdown, the German government remains optimistic, with a growth forecast of 0.4% in 2023.”The economy experienced winter weakness. But we continue to expect a marked improvement over the course of the year“, ured AFP the Ministry of the Economy.

Not everyone is so optimistic. The IMF forecast in April that German economic activity would contract by 0.1% this year, before a rebound of 1.1% in 2024. The situation in Germany stands out compared to its European neighbors, where the risk of recession s gradually faded thanks to lower energy prices. “Germany is widely seen as the potential black sheep of Europesays Guillaume Dejean, analyst for Global Market Insight. In Belgium and France, economic activity thus increased by 0.4% and 0.2% respectively in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. Italy, for its part, saw its GDP rise by 0.5%.

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