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German industrial policy: General restraint commendable, but key areas that need to be addressed are being neglected

September 12, 2017
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German industrial policy has been cautious over the past few decades, especially in comparison with several other European countries. And this approach has been successful. The German government should continue to refrain from active industrial policy. Nevertheless, we believe that greater state engagement or a realignment of existing policy is vital in some areas. One area where we see a need for action is network infrastructure. When it comes to the shift in German energy policy, it would be sensible to focus more strongly on what is genuinely achievable. [more]

More documents from Eric Heymann

111 (49-60)
May 5, 2017
49
Growth in global trade almost stagnated at just 1.3% in 2016, and in some months was even negative. During winter, global trade picked up again, rising by around 3% compared to the same period a year earlier. Given the positive sentiment prevailing across the globe, this rebound could well continue. However, this trend is not yet being fully reflected in other hard economic indicators, usually highly correlated with global trade, and sentiment may therefore overstate the actual trend a little. Still, our simple model of world trade, which suggests moderate growth of just over 2% in 2017 and around 3% in 2018 might represent the lower limit of the forecast range. However, compared to previous cycles the upturn could remain weak, not least because of the global trade restrictions that have been progressively ratcheted up since 2008. [more]
April 28, 2017
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50
The diesel scandal and political uncertainty surrounding future regulation are the main reasons why the proportion of vehicle registrations accounted for by diesel cars has slumped recently in Germany and most other EU countries. If the automotive industry wants to continue to rely on diesel technology, it needs to regain credibility and get to grips with the issue of emissions – including in real-world driving conditions. If it doesn't manage to do this, lawmakers are likely to progressively tighten the regulatory framework for diesel cars. However, should the industry succeed in bringing to market clean diesel cars at affordable prices, these cars would remain the most economical option for a large proportion of motorists – at least until alternative drive technologies become competitive from the customer perspective. This would make current proclamations of the death of diesel somewhat premature. [more]
March 9, 2017
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51
At face value the pick-up of GDP growth at the end of 2016 (Q4: +0.4% qoq vs. +0.1% prev.) seems to fit with improving sentiment. However, given its composition we would argue that underlying growth was weaker than the headline suggests. We stick to our below consensus GDP forecast for 2017 (1.1%) and only make cosmetic changes in the details. We are raising our inflation forecast slightly overall for 2017, from 1.6% to 1.7%, compared with only 0.5% in 2016. We still expect core inflation to be only slightly above 1% in 2017. If the signs of global price increases are confirmed, then we could in fact see a more pronounced increase in core inflation, particularly if rising prices translate into second-round effects when wage negotiations are conducted in 2018. (Further articles: German industry, German election campaign) [more]
February 14, 2017
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52
In 2016, electric cars and hybrids represented only 1.8% of all new passenger car registrations in Germany. It therefore remains a niche market – despite the introduction of subsidies last year. The average car buyer steers clear of electric vehicles because of high purchase costs, uncertainty about resale value and battery life, limited range, a lack of charging stations and lengthy charging times. This reluctance to buy presents the automotive industry and the state with a dilemma: strict CO2 limits for new vehicles mean that the industry has to invest heavily in electric-car technology, but it cannot expect an equivalent payback in terms of revenue in the foreseeable future. For the state, it can come down to a straight choice between granting expensive subsidies or failing to reach climate change targets. [more]
December 21, 2016
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54
German GDP growth is expected to slow somewhat in 2017 following considerable momentum over the last two years. We note the growth rate will almost half, to 1.1%, in 2017, but around half of this is due to a smaller number of working days. While the economy will likely have to do without a number of special factors that provided a boost to domestic demand in 2016, we believe that the underlying robust domestic economic growth path remains intact. Weak global trade and political uncertainty will dampen exports and investments. The ECB has in all but words indicated that tapering will begin in 2017. European interest rates are likely to remain at very low levels in 2017, at least at the short end. [more]
November 8, 2016
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55
Over the next three to five years, global trade is likely to grow only at or around the same pace as global GDP. This structurally weaker momentum will be reflected in slow growth in the global and regional flow of goods, as has already been the case in recent years. In its role as an open, export-oriented economy, Germany – and the German logistics sector in particular – will continue to feel the sting of this development. At a nominal average of 2% a year, turnover growth in the sector is likely to be below the long-term average in the years ahead. [more]
October 28, 2016
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56
German wage growth slowed in H1 2016 and there is a range of factors that are likely to also put a lid on the pick-up in 2017. The impact of labour shortage is limited by material mismatch between the qualifications of the unemployed and those sought by employers as well as substantial immigration flows. High real wage gains have pushed up unit labour costs and weighed on corporate profitability, which is further undermined by low productivity growth. Cautious wage agreements in 2016 on average stipulate only 2% wage increases in 2017. Despite a 4% increase in the statutory minimum wage, aggregate wages should increase by only around 2 ½%. According to our forecasts, next year could see the growth rate for industrial production in Germany drop to 0.5% in real terms. Regarding output in Germany’s large industrial sectors we do not expect major outliers. Also in this issue: “The View from Berlin. All lights on the debates about personalities and tactical gambits.” [more]
September 27, 2016
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57
The Climate Action Plan 2050 is intended to show how Germany can meet its climate change targets; it is currently out for consultation with Federal German government departments. There was intense public criticism when individual passages of an earlier draft of the plan were diluted at the instigation of the German Chancellery. In this political discussion, long-term political ideals are confronted by cautious (more realistic?) recent assessments of technological progress, the economies of scale achievable by climate-friendly technologies, and adoption by consumers. The Climate Action Plan remains vague in many important aspects, such as the technologies to be used to meet climate change targets, the approximate absolute costs that can be expected, the restrictions on consumer sovereignty and commercial freedom of choice that politicians are considering and the future infringement of ownership rights and vested interests. [more]
August 29, 2016
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58
Nearly four years ago, the European Commission set its sights on increasing the share of manufacturing in total gross value added from 15.5% at that time to 20% by 2020. This target will probably not be met. After all, in 2015 the share of manufacturing was only around 15.6% and thus scarcely higher than in 2012. However, industry's contribution to EU output has at least stopped decreasing since 2012. Furthermore, industrial gross value added has picked up (slightly) in the EU in recent years in both nominal and real terms. In a few member states, there have been highly contrasting developments in the significance of manufacturing in the economy. It is striking that the industry share in the three large Eastern Europe member states has increased sharply since 2012. Spain and Italy have reported modest gains. Germany has seen its industry share decline slightly in 2015; however, at 22.8% it still far outstrips the EU average. [more]
August 24, 2016
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59
The manufacturing sector is one of Germany's biggest employers. On average, more than 5.2 million people were working in manufacturing in the first half of 2016. This represents an increase of 6.3% compared with the beginning of 2005 – and comes in spite of the deep recession of 2008/2009. In the period under review, job growth was particularly strong in mechanical engineering, the food industry, the rubber and plastics industry, and the metals industry. Expansion of employment in German industry has slowed recently, however. Because of the low rate of global growth and muted investment activity, employment in the industrial sector is likely to stagnate up to 2017 – albeit at a high level. [more]
July 27, 2016
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60
There is a high level of excess demand in the housing market and it has grown in recent years. Demand for credit is also growing at a correspondingly rapid pace. The supply of credit could be boosted by further monetary stimulus. In the medium term, more buoyant lending is likely to increase interest rate risk. However, if lending growth remains low, there will be increased risk of overvaluations and a house price bubble. This is particularly true when little new housing is financed and lending is largely for existing property. Given the high level of excess demand in the housing market and the fact that office buildings are being converted to residential buildings, office space is also likely to be in short supply in the coming years. As a result, rents in the office market can be expected to rise more strongly, and could – for a time – outstrip the rise in rents in the housing market. Since Chancellor Merkel assumed office in 2005 her term has been dominated by crisis management, which often required leadership and moderation of differing interests in Europe. Managing the UK’s departure from the EU will have top priority for the time being. Nonetheless, Merkel is likely to focus her attention on domestic topics as much as on European ones in the upcoming months given the looming federal elections in autumn 2017. Also in this issue: Fewer insolvencies in German industry. [more]
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