German factory orders plunged the most since 2009, underlining the risk of a slowdown in Europe’s largest economy.
Orders, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, fell 5.7 percent in August, the Economy Ministry in Berlin said today. Economists predicted a 2.5 percent decline, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The data are volatile, and the drop followed a 4.9 percent increase in July that was the most in more than a year. Orders fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier.
Deteriorating confidence is undermining a rebound in Germany’s economy from a second-quarter slump. The 18-nation euro region is struggling to sustain its recovery amid rising political tension with Russia over its support of separatists in Ukraine and inflation that’s running at a fraction of the European Central Bank’s definition of price stability.
“Geopolitical risks, especially the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, have made companies cautious about their investment plans, despite very favorable fundamental and funding conditions,” said Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank in London. “Once these uncertainties fade confidence and thus investment should rebound.”
The euro was up 0.4 percent today and traded at $1.2563 at 1:53 p.m. Frankfurt time. The yield on German 10-year bonds was down 2 basis points at 0.91 percent.
Export orders dropped 8.4 percent in August, while domestic demand slid 2 percent, the ministry said. Investment-goods orders plunged 8.5 percent and basic goods orders slid 3 percent, while consumer goods rose 3.7 percent.
While August orders were weak partly because of school holidays, they were also affected by the slowing euro-area economy and geopolitical risks, the ministry said.
Euro-area inflation was 0.3 percent last month, compared with the ECB’s goal of just under 2 percent. A slowing Chinese economy and spiraling international sanctions against Russia have weakened business and investor sentiment.
The World Bank lowered its forecasts for growth in developing East Asia this year. The region is projected to grow 6.9 percent in 2014 and 2015, down from 7.1 percent seen in April. That compares with global growth of 2.6 percent in 2014.
The euro area is still on track for a “modest economic expansion in the second half,” even though risks remain on the downside, ECB President Mario Draghi said last week. The Governing Council kept interest rates unchanged at record lows and said it will start buying covered bonds and asset-backed securities to support the economy.
“The outlook for the German economy is subdued,” said Holger Sandte, chief European analyst at Nordea Markets in Copenhagen. “I’m not sure we’ll see growth in the third quarter.”