Economic growth German style has hit the buffers

Today gives us the opportunity to look at the conventional and the unconventional so let us crack on via the German statistics office.

WIESBADEN – The corona pandemic hits the German economy hard. Although the spread of the coronavirus did not have a major effect on the economic performance in January and February, the impact of the pandemic is serious for the 1st quarter of 2020. The gross domestic product (GDP) was down by 2.2% on the 4th quarter of 2019 upon price, seasonal and calendar adjustment. That was the largest decrease since the global financial and economic crisis of 2008/2009 and the second largest decrease since German unification. A larger quarter-on-quarter decline was recorded only for the 1st quarter of 2009 (-4.7%).

So we start with a similar pattern to the UK as frankly a 0.2% difference at this time does not mean a lot. Also we see that this is essentially what we might call an Ides of March thing as that is when things headed south fast. However some care is needed because of this.

The recalculation for the 4th quarter of 2019 has resulted in a price-, seasonally and calendar-adjusted GDP decrease of 0.1% on the previous quarter (previous result: 0.0%).

For newer readers this brings two of my themes into play. The first is that I struggled to see how Germany came up with a 0% number at the time ( and this has implications for the Euro area GDP numbers too). If they were trying to dodge the recession definition things have rather backfired. The second is that Germany saw its economy turn down in early 2018 which is quite different to how many have presented it. Some of the news came from later downwards revisions which is obviously awkward if you only read page one, but also should bring a tinge of humility as even in more stable times we know less than we might think we do.

Switching now to the context there are various ways of looking at this and I have chosen to omit the seasonal adjustment as right now it will have failed which gives us this.

a calendar-adjusted 2.3%, on a year earlier.

No big change but it means in context that the economy of Germany has grown by 4% since 2015 or if you prefer returned to early 2017.

In terms of detail we start with a familiar pattern.

Household final consumption expenditure fell sharply in the 1st quarter of 2020. Gross fixed capital formation in machinery and equipment decreased considerably, too.

But then get something more unfamiliar when we not we are looking at Germany.

However, final consumption expenditure of general government and gross fixed capital formation in construction had a stabilising effect and prevented a larger GDP decrease.

So the German government was already spending more although yesterday brought some context into this.


As he was talking about June I added this bit.

and late…….he forgot late….

Actually they have already agreed this or we were told that.

Germany has approved an initial rescue package worth over 750 billion euros to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with the government taking on new debt for the first time since 2013.

The first package agreed in March comprises a debt-financed supplementary budget of 156 billion euros and a stabilisation fund worth 600 billion euros for loans to struggling businesses and direct stakes in companies. ( Reuters )


There is this about which we get very little detail.

Both exports and imports saw a strong decline on the 4th quarter of 2019.

If we switch to the trade figures it looks as though they were a drag on the numbers.

WIESBADEN – Germany exported goods to the value of 108.9 billion euros and imported goods to the value of 91.6 billion euros in March 2020. Based on provisional data, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) also reports that exports declined by 7.9% and imports by 4.5% in March 2020 year on year.

Ironically this gives us something many wanted which is a lower German trade surplus but of course not in a good way. A factor in this will be the numbers below which Google Translate has allowed me to take from the German version.

Passenger car production (including motorhomes) was compared to March 2019
by more than a third (-37%) and compared to February 2020 by more than a quarter (-27%)
around 285,000 pieces back.

The caveats I pointed out for the UK about seasonality, inflation and the (in)ability to collect many of the numbers will be at play here.

Looking Ahead

The Federal Statistics Office has been trying to innovate and has been looking at private-sector loan deals.

The preliminary low was the week after Easter (16th calendar week from April 13th to 19th) with 36.7% fewer new personal loan contracts than achieved in the previous week. Since then, the new loan agreements have ranged from around 30% to 35% below the same period in the previous year.

That provides food for thought for the ECB and Christine Lagarde to say the least.

Also in an era of dissatisfaction with conventional GDP and the rise of nowcasting we have been noting this.

KÖLN/WIESBADEN – The Federal Office for Goods Transport (BAG) and the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) report that the mileage covered by trucks with four or more axles, which are subject to toll charges, on German motorways decreased a seasonally adjusted 10.9% in April 2020 compared with March 2020. This was an even stronger decline on the previous month than in March 2020, when a decrease of -5.8% on February 2020 had been recorded, until then the largest month-on-month decline since truck toll was introduced in 2005.

That is quite a drop and leaves us expecting a 10%+ drop for GDP in Germany this quarter especially as we note that many service industries have been hit even harder.


I promised you something unconventional so let me start with this.

Covid-19 has uncovered weaknesses in France’s pharmaceutical sector. With 80 percent of medicines manufactured in Asia, France remains highly dependent on China and India. Entrepreneurs are now determined to bring France’s laboratories back to Europe. ( France24 )

I expect this to be a trend now and will be true in much of the western world. But this ball bounces around like Federer versus Nadal. Why? Well I immediately thought of Ireland which via its tax regime has ended up with a large pharmaceutical sector which others may now be noting. Regular readers will recall the times we have looked at the “pharmaceutical cliff” there when a drug has lost its patent and gone full generic so to speak. That might seem odd but remember there were issues about things like paracetamol in the UK for a bit.

That is before we get to China and the obvious issues in may things have effectively been outsourced to it. Some will be brought within national borders which for Germany will be a gain. But the idea of trade having a reversal is not good for an exporter like Germany as the ball continues to be hit. Perhaps it realises this hence the German Constitutional Court decision but that risks upsetting a world where Germany is paid to borrow and of course a new Mark would surge against any past Euro value.


17 thoughts on “Economic growth German style has hit the buffers

  1. Hi Shaun
    Clearly the pre covid global world is dead
    and the new world will be more nationalistic.
    In the syle of the end of an episode of “Soap.”

    Will the fed qe $3trn to avoid negative rates.
    Will the eurozone fail before brexit.
    Is UBI more or less likely.
    Will Norwich get relegated.
    Confused, you will be!


    • “and the new world will be more nationalistic.”

      I doubt the EU will be , I can see them using this as a lever for more unification

      If they can sort out fiscal union maybe they can save the project but as it’s a political one I rather doubt that.


    • Haha! Soap!…a great comedy..err..soap! That you mention it does rather puts you in an age bracket…one where Common sense was rather more common!
      The German Constitutional soap will be entertaining; my money is on Germany not complying with the ECJ…but the result being fudged for public consumption.

  2. Hello Shaun,

    wasn’t 2019 not so good for Germany and the EU ( regardless of brexit ) ?

    The housing market for the UK was bad as I know to my own expense .

    Now we have the perfect excuse to push the pedal to metal….. except it was almost there any way!

    if the patient was comatose before CV-19 , it’s certainly under cardiac arrest now….

    As for all sourcing being cut to one , China, this a risk factor for IT ( my industry) that was well known , certainly after the Indonesian Tsunami hit the hard drive suppliers .

    What did our managers and CEO do ? ignore the 3 supplier guidelines and singled sourced from China ( why? they certainly are the cheapest manufactures around , for varied reasons , mainly they do not have to satisfy H&S and pollution laws, yet alone labor ones !) .

    Do I think we’ll see more sources being used ?

    Yes, until they forget and go back to cheapest buck first. ( about 3 months I reckon)


    • Hi Forbin

      I agree that if history is any guide we will revert to previous behaviour quite quickly. However, I think in some areas there will be changes due to national security considerations.

      Also I would like to see the UK emphasis farming a bit more. We could have been in trouble due to our food imports and need to raise our game. Some things we cannot grow due the climate but plenty of things will grow here.

      • For too long farmers have been paid for doing things other than maximising food production.
        Many think that, without the backing of the CAP our farmers will struggle.
        That is not historically correct.

  3. shaun,

    “Covid-19 has uncovered weaknesses in France’s pharmaceutical sector. With 80 percent of medicines manufactured in Asia, France remains highly dependent on China and India. Entrepreneurs are now determined to bring France’s laboratories back to Europe. ( France24 )”t

    I am not surprised after that France wants to bring its back to Europe after the conrona pandemic, its still being suggested it was a leak from the Wuhan laboratory which caused the virus to spread.

    Trump’s strategy is to bring more manufacturing back to the US not and not at all happy about problems with “intellectual rights” its been well known for decades China and Hong Kong’s ability to copy just about everything these days.

    We are moving further away from globalization and the effects will have repercussions wordwide and exacerbate the world downturn.

    Then we have BREXIT in the UK to think about little wonder the £ has suffered badly lately.

  4. Since it is now thought that up to 19m people in the UK have had the coronavirus, and that infection started in December, three months prior to the plannedemic, it is likely to be the case that the plannedemic has been an elaborate charade, dreamed up at Davos in late January (have you any idea how many banks pay nigh on $1/2m to become “strategic partners?) in order to have the economic reset we have needed since 2008, but couldn’t happen without those strategic partners and politicians around the Davos table getting their come-uppance.
    If we have had 30-odd thousand deaths from 19 million cases, practically all of which required severe underlying health problems, then although each one of those fatalities is a personal disaster, does it really warrant shutting down the economy, rather than just cloistering the vulnerable 0.16% of our community, most of whom are not economically active anyway?
    If, as the spouse & full-time carer of a disabled double-transplantee, who is in the highest-risk, shielded group, so dare not go out, I say, “No.” do we really believe those who make cold, hard, decisions which cause the death of tens of thousands without a second thought, believe it’s worthwhile?
    Stop and think for a moment: misery is being heaped upon tens of millions, relatives buried without funerals, people dying alone, and more likely to die via the lockdown than the cause.
    Do you not smell a very big rat? Really?

  5. If you actually read the whole of The Illuminatus! Trilogy, a series of three novels by American writers Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, first published in 1975, their famous eye in a triangle logo is oft quoted as the definitive guide to Deep State, Davos et al. At the very end the narrator reveals that the truth is not the great conspiracy theory alluded to throughout the 3 novels, but it was all simply down to “The Cock-up Factor” after all!
    So I am with Forbin, (as usual!), that, far from any “pre-planned event” this is simply “Shit Happens!”.
    Although, apropos my previous comments, a worldwide blinkered approach to a virus discovered in 1965 and a huge worldwide lack of resourcing and funding for research, this was clearly an accident just waiting to happen.
    All Politicians just prayed it didn’t happen on their watch.
    Hardly great societal policy planning.
    “The cost of researching and producing a Corona Virus vaccine would cost billions…”
    Just billions?
    Look at the current economic cost running to trillions AND totally wrecked world economies.
    Value for money policy planning? I think not! Short-termism chickens coming home to roost.
    Pip pip!

  6. HI Shaun,
    NZ is also dependant on Asia for pharmaceuticals. Dispenses of prescription medicines have been limited to one months supply to stop hoarding. Purchases of OTC products such as a paracetamol are limited. I’ve not seen waterless hand sanitiser in the supermarkets for months.
    I’m not sure how anyone can “hoard” prescription drugs but there we are…

    We always wondered what would happen if a black swan appeared before we had finished clearing up the mess from the credit crunch. Now we know. All problems have the same solution – and same results.

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