Monday, May 16, 2011

Germany is going strong

Barring short-term ups and downs, the multi-year outlook for the German economy remains very bright. One of my major topics has been the extremely favourable short as well as long term outlook for the German economy (see for example the publication German Wirtschaftswunder 2.0 from May last year as well as Don’t underestimate the German consumer dated Jan25). Germany has embarked on a multi-year virtuous circle with high real growth due to structural reasons (high competitiveness of the German economy, relatively healthy fiscal situation, end of the decade-long high real rates period) as well as cyclical reasons (extremely accommodative monetary policy environment which via higher inflation and an improvement in credit availability becomes even more accommodative). I am convinced that even though consensus growth expectations have been raised somewhat, just how positive and long-lasting this growth environment will be remains vastly underappreciated. Last week’s much better than anticipated Q1 growth numbers (+1.5% qoq vs. +0.9% expected and remember that these numbers are not annualised) once again support this notion. As the German statistics office stated: “In a quarter-on-quarter comparison (adjusted for price, seasonal and calendar variations), a positive contribution was made mainly by the domestic economy. Both capital formation in machinery and equipment and in construction and final consumption expenditure increased in part markedly. The growth of exports and imports continued, too. However, the balance of exports and imports had a smaller share in the strong GDP growth than domestic uses.”
Hence, as I expected, it is not only the export industry which drives this cyclical upswing but the domestic economy is increasingly contributing to growth. As unemployment is dropping and real wage growth should pick up, the longer-term outlook for domestic consumption remains bright. I think there are two more important factors which will cause the domestic economy to do increasingly well:During the first decade of the Euro, Germany has suffered from a tight monetary environment (weak credit growth and much too high real yields). This depressed domestic investment by the corporate sector and led the savings ratio higher (an increase in the savings ratio was also a rational response to increased economic insecurity amid the high number of reforms in social security and labour markets earlier last decade). Now, the monetary environment is becoming increasingly accommodative (historically very low nominal yields coupled with above-trend inflation means that real yields are extremely low; additionally given the strong economy credit availability is improving). In combination with the healthy economy and a high level of competitiveness, the corporate sector should increase its domestic investments. Additionally, given higher job security (amid the low level of unemployment), the savings ratio of private households should drop markedly. Finally, weak consumption by German households during the past decade suggests that there should be a lot of pent-up demand, especially for durable goods and housing.

The chart below shows the development of 10y German real yields (defined as 10y nominal Bund yields minus German yoy headline inflation). As can be seen, the monetary environment has become significantly easier over the past two years given that first nominal bond yields have become much lower and inflation has recently moved higher again. Furthermore, current German real yields are the lowest since the start of the Euro!

10y German real yields (10y nominal Bund yield - German inflation rate) at record lows

Source: Bloomberg; Research Ahead

Immigration trends are shifting. Earlier this week the German statistics office published the latest immigration data for 2010. It showed that on a net basis some 128.000 people have moved into Germany. This is a significant shift from earlier years and marks the highest net immigration since 2003. It is down to both, more foreigners moving to Germany and less German residents moving abroad. I am convinced that immigration will increase further. A key factor for immigration are relative economic prospects. Given that the German economy is doing so well and hence creates a lot of jobs whereas a host of other European countries are doing poorly with high unemployment rates, suggest that the attractiveness of Germany has increased significantly. Significant positive migration would positively affect trend growth (as it provides more labour to the economy and increases private sector demand) and help to ease the demographic problems Germany is facing in its social security system.

Source: German Statistics Office

Finally, I remain convinced that a key factor for the market share of German corporates in the global export markets remains determined by the level of the Euro vs. the key competitors of the German industry. Here, Japan seems to be very important, not only for the auto sector but also for machinery and chemicals. As the chart below shows, the EURJPY cross rate has moved sharply lower since the start of the financial crisis (from around 170 to currently 115, i.e. c.p. Japan lost 30% in relative price competiveness vs. Germany) and remains close to 10-year lows. Coupled with production losses following the catastrophes in Japan, Germany should be able to take away market share from Japanese manufacturers.

Trade-weighted Euro and even more so EURJPY provide significant stimulus for Germany

Source: Bloomberg

No comments:

Post a Comment