- Last week, another raft of German manufacturing sentiment data came out and the charts look ugly.
- Analysts are saying things like “grim,” “misery,” “horrific,” and “this is a serious recession warning in the German economy.”
- Because of its size and importance to world trade, if German manufacturing sneezes, everyone else can catch a cold.
The single most worrying issue in the European economy right now is the ongoing collapse of German manufacturing. Last week, another raft of factory sentiment data came out and the charts look ugly: Analysts are saying things like “grim,” “misery,” “horrific,” and “this is a serious recession warning in the German economy.”
While the European Central Bank is flashing warnings about the economic health of the whole region – President Mario Draghi on Wednesday said he might halt rate rises on a slump in demand – Germany is especially alarming.
“Winter has come back with a vengeance for the industrial sector,” Oxford Economics analyst Ángel Talavera told his clients. “The shocking plunge in the German manufacturing index to its lowest since 2012 is a stark reminder that the outlook for the industrial sector continues to be dominated by uncertainty, overwhelmed by a multitude of potential negative shocks ranging from a hard Brexit to the imposition of tariffs by the US.”
PMI refers to the “purchasing managers’ index.”
The IFO and PMI indexes are both predicting declines in German GDP growth, according to this chart from Oxford Economics.
Although manufacturing in Germany isn’t as large as its services sector, which remains buoyant, the country is psychologically identified with its historic manufacturing prowess. Think BMW, VW, Audi, BASF, and Bayer.
Germany is also the largest economy in Europe. It sits at the heart of the eurozone currency area, and its largest non-European trading partners are China and the US.
It is also the fourth largest economy globally.
If German manufacturing sneezes, everyone else can catch a cold, in other words.
“The gap between the services and the manufacturing PMIs has now risen to levels not seen since the global financial crisis,” Talavera also wrote, in a note seen by Business Insider.
To be clear, analysts are not expecting a repeat of the financial crisis this year. But they are discussing a potential rerun of the mild recessions of 2012 and 2002. That’s the base case.
Here’s are some more of the charts.
Manufacturing PMI – an index of sentiment from manufacturing companies which correlates closely with actual activity – is predicting a further decline.
Pantheon analyst Claus Vistesen called the situation “misery” and “grim.”
The fear is that Germany is leading all manufacturing in the Eurozone into a recession.
But it is not all bad news. Domestic demand in Germany is still strong, and the services sector is still resilient.
“The rise in the March ifo index [a business climate survey that is broader than manufacturing PMI] does little to lift the fog of uncertainty over the outlook for the German economy,” said Oxford Economics analyst Oliver Rakau in a note to clients. “The strong increase in expectations eases the recession fears that last week’s horrific drop in the PMI raised, as marked strength in the services sector continues to suggest little spill-over of industrial woes into domestic demand.”
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