Germany dodges recession with zero growth in Q4

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Reuters pic)

FRANKFURT: Gross domestic product (GDP) in Germany neither grew nor shrank in the final quarter of 2018, official data showed Thursday, soothing fears the country could have suffered a technical recession in the second half of the year.

Europe’s largest economy enjoyed a “first half year with plenty of momentum”, adding 0.4% in the first quarter and 0.5% in the second, federal statistics authority Destatis said.

But “a small trough in the second half of the year” brought shrinkage of 0.2% between July and September and no change in the final three months.

Added up, that meant Germany grew 1.4% in 2018 – 0.1 percentage points slower than initially calculated last month and well short of 2017’s 2.2%.

The second quarter of contraction following the summer slowdown would have made for a technical recession, potentially prompting fears of a broader malaise gripping the 19-nation eurozone.

“The weak performance of the German economy in the second half of the year is the result of too many one-offs,” ING Diba bank economist Carsten Brzeski commented.

Carmakers’ sales were braked from September by new emissions tests, hobbling a vital industry, while inland shipping was slowed by low water in Germany’s rivers after a hot, dry summer.

Looking abroad, continuing trade conflict between Washington and Beijing and fears of a no-deal Brexit weighed on international business.

Nevertheless, the fourth-quarter results also showed off the domestic strengths supporting the German economy through global headwinds, with investments, consumer spending and government outlays all increasing.

“The upside from today’s data is it can hardly get worse,” Brzeski said.

“Economic fundamentals remain solid and from here on, chances of a gradual rebound are still much higher than chances of yet another disappointment.”