German investor morale rise stokes recovery hopes

MANNHEIM, Germany - German analyst and investor sentiment rose sharply in February, in a sign stimulus measures and interest rate cuts are buoying confidence that Europe’s largest economy can start recovering later this year.

By (Reuters)

Published: Tue 17 Feb 2009, 6:47 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 10:23 PM

The ZEW economic think tank said on Tuesday its monthly poll of economic sentiment jumped to -5.8 from -31.0 in January, marking the largest increase in expectations since July 1993 and shooting past the -28.0 expected by analysts polled last week.

The more upbeat tone to the survey chimed with a firmer sentiment reading in the Ifo economic institute’s gauge of German corporate morale in January, when it rose for the first time in eight months.

“The ZEW figures offer a glimmer of hope that the low point could have been reached and things will improve again soon,” said Postbank economist Heinrich Bayer. “Things should improve within the next half-year.”

The euro recovered losses versus the dollar and Bund futures pared gains after the better-than-expected ZEW data, which was based on a survey of 310 analysts and investors conducted between Feb. 2 and Feb. 16.

ZEW President Wolfgang Franz said the German economy was still on a downward path.

“However, the experts expect this movement to reach its lowest point within the next months. By the middle of 2009, the economy is likely to improve again,” he added in a statement.

The government has agreed twin fiscal stimulus packages it says are worth around 80 billion euros ($101.2 billion) and hopes these will limit the extent and duration of the downturn.

“The ECB rate cuts and the second aggressive economic rescue package from the German government seem to have offset increased fears of a global recession,” said Carsten Brzeski from ING Financial Markets.

The European Central Bank has reduced its main interest rate by 2.25 percentage points since October to 2.0 percent, the lowest level in its 10-year history, and economists widely expect policymakers to cut rates to a new all-time low in March.

Recovery hopes

A separate ZEW index measuring an assessment of current conditions fell, however, to -86.2 from -77.1 in January, a deeper drop than the -81.0 expected by the consensus forecast.

ZEW project director Sandra Schmidt said that around a third of the responses from analysts surveyed were submitted after last Friday’s release of weak fourth quarter 2008 GDP figures.

“Those assessments were slightly worse, but not enough to have any real, significant influence on the outcome,” she said.

Thilo Heidrich, another Postbank economist, said the figures showed analysts are hoping for a mid-year recovery, but that GDP data is weighing on assessments of current economic conditions.

“It shows they believe the stimulus package should have positive effects from mid-year,” he said.

German firms are still finding business conditions tough.

ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s biggest steelmaker, said last week its second quarter to end-March would be more difficult than the first but it still expected to make a full-year profit, albeit markedly lower than in 2007-08.

Companies such as ThyssenKrupp, which enjoyed robust foreign demand in recent years, are now feeling the global downturn.

Sagging foreign demand has hit German exports, eating into gross domestic product (GDP) more than expected late last year, with the fourth quarter GDP posting a 2.1 percent drop. It was the country’s largest quarterly contraction since reunification.

The government expects the economy to contract by 2.25 percent this year. Since World War Two, Germany’s economy has never contracted by more than one percent in a single year.

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