Economic Outlook

German economy overcomes slowdown only gradually

Kiel Institute Economic Outlook Germany, Nr. 62 (2019|Q4)

The German economy is recovering only gradually. After a weak summer half-year, gross domestic product will hardly do more than stagnate in the final quarter of the current year. Economic activity still provides two contrasting pictures. The main reason for the ongoing downturn, which began last year, is the significant decline in industrial production. This was mainly due to the gloomy global economic environment, since reduced investment worldwide due to the high level of global economic uncertainty had a particularly negative impact on the German economy, which is specialized in the production of capital goods. In the meantime, the investment climate in Germany has also deteriorated noticeably. As a result, companies are likely to significantly reduce their investment activity in the coming quarters. The weak industrial economy is also increasingly affecting the industry-related services companies. In contrast, the consumer-related service sectors continue to expand. Despite the fact that employment growth has now slowed considerably, disposable incomes of private households continue to rise significantly. In addition to wage increases which continue to be quite strong, numerous income-increasing fiscal policy measures are also contributing to this. The construction industry is still booming, not least due to the continuing favorable financing conditions. Over the course of the coming year, overall economic production should gradually pick up again somewhat. This is supported by the slight recovery in the global economy. As a result, industrial production should find its bottom and at least pick up again somewhat. At 1.1 percent, GDP growth in 2020 is likely to be much higher than in the current year, where an increase by 0.5 percent is expected. However, the higher growth rate in the coming year is primarily due to the higher number of working days. Against this backdrop, the surpluses of public budgets will decline significantly: While spending will continue to expand strongly, revenues will be noticeably burdened by the weak economy. After the record surplus of over 60 billion euros in 2018, we expect a slight deficit in 2021.