Exports from Germany, Europe’s largest economy, fell more than economists forecast in October as slowing global growth and the region’s debt crisis damped demand.
Exports, adjusted for work days and seasonal changes, dropped 3.6 percent from September, when they rose 1 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists forecast a drop of 1.3 percent, according to the median of 14 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Imports declined 1 percent from the previous month.
Germany’s economic expansion may grind to a near halt next year as euro-area governments cut spending and global demand falters. The Bundesbank on Nov. 21 cut its 2012 growth projection to between 0.5 percent and 1 percent, saying a “pronounced” period of weakness can’t be ruled out. Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest carmaker, said on Dec. 6 that it’s “more cautious” about the outlook and is “preparing carefully for all possible situations.”
“The readiness to order is weakening in our main trading partners in the euro zone,” said Jens Kramer, an economist at NordLB in Hanover, Germany. “Customers in emerging economies are only partially making up for it.”
The trade surplus narrowed to 11.6 billion euros ($15.4 billion) from 17.3 billion euros in September. The surplus in the current account, a measure of all trade including services, was 10.3 billion euros, down from 16 billion euros a month earlier.
The European Central Bank yesterday cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 1 percent and lowered its 2012 growth forecast for the 17-nation euro area to 0.3 percent from 1.3 percent. President Mario Draghi said the economic outlook “remains subject to high uncertainty and substantial downside risks.”
In the euro area and Britain, manufacturing shrank at the fastest pace in about 2 1/2 years in November. China’s manufacturing contracted for the first time since February 2009 last month as the property market cooled and Europe’s turmoil cut export demand.
German car manufacturers are bracing for a slowdown in demand, the VDA auto industry association said Dec. 2. If tensions in financial markets don’t ease, a “slight” decline is possible in the western European car market, VDA President Matthias Wissmann said in Berlin.
It’s “impossible at present to reliably predict” how the new fiscal year will unfold, steelmaker ThyssenKrupp AG said on Dec. 2, when forecasting “significantly lower” first-quarter earnings. Chief Executive Officer Heinrich Hiesinger said he doesn’t expect a breakup of the currency bloc.
Some companies are optimistic. Hugo Boss AG, a German luxury clothier, expects to see “record growth” in 2012 even as the debt crisis makes the environment tougher for the sector, CEO Claus Dietrich Lahrs told the Financial Times.
German exporters are “cautiously optimistic” for 2012, Anton Boerner, head of the BGA exporters’ association, said on Dec. 5. Export growth will slow to as little as 6 percent from 12 percent in 2011 in nominal terms, he said.
“The dynamism in export demand from emerging economies will lessen,” said Arnd Schaefer, an economist at WestLB in Dusseldorf, Germany. “The contribution of foreign trade to Germany’s gross domestic product will be negative next year.”