Working Paper

Exportweltmeister: Germany’s Foreign Investment Returns in International Comparison


  • Hünnekes
  • F.
  • Konradt
  • M.
  • Trebesch
  • C.
  • Schularick
  • M.
  • Wingenbach
  • J.
Publication Date

In the past decade, Germany has been the world champion in exporting capital (“Exportweltmeister”). No other country invested larger amounts of savings outside its borders. However, we find that Germany plays in the third division when it comes to investment performance. To show this, we construct a comprehensive new database on the returns on foreign investment for 13 advanced economies back to the 1970s. The data reveal that Germany’s annual returns on foreign assets were 2 to 5 percentage points lower than those of comparable countries. Germany ranks last among the G7 countries and earns significantly lower foreign returns within asset classes, especially for equity and foreign direct investments. These aggregate results are confirmed with micro data on equity returns by 50,000 mutual funds worldwide. German funds perform worse across all sectors and destination countries of investment. They also seem to do a worse job in timing the market.


JEL Classification
F21, F30, F31, F36, G15

Key Words

  • foreign assets
  • foreign returns
  • international capital flows