German industry is bracing for a tougher 2022 as lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine compound ongoing supply chain problems, leading two associations to downgrade their forecasts for the year.
The VDMA engineering association cut its machinery production growth outlook for a second time on Monday. It now expects production of industrial machinery carrying the “Made in Germany” label to grow 1% this year, having already slashed its forecast to 4% from 7% two months ago.
Last year, production grew by 6.4%. The BDI industry association said it now expects exports to grow by only 2.5% this year, after predicting a rise of 4% in January. read more
The lowered forecasts come despite many companies having strong backlogs of orders, as they are struggling to fill them: A survey by the Ifo institute said 77.2% of companies complained about bottlenecks and problems procuring intermediate products and raw materials.
One in two companies affected by material shortages said the China lockdowns made the situation even worse than before, the IFO survey published on Monday showed. VDMA President Karl Haeusgen said in a statement that before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 80% of companies described their business prospects in Russia as good or satisfactory. Now, 75% expect it to deteriorate in the next six months or want to abandon it altogether.
“This shows the extent to which the war has changed everything,” Haeusgen said. BDI predicts production will grow by nearly 2% – less than expected before the war began – with the caveat that this forecast depends on supply chain problems easing and Russian gas continuing to flow in.
Exports may also be a concern. Last year, machinery made up a substantial part of the 26.6 billion euros ($28.5 billion) in goods that Germany exported to Russia.
Source: German industry braces for tougher 2022 due to war, lockdowns | Reuters
Critics by Carlos Caceres, Mai Chi Dao, and Aiko Mineshima
IMF European Department
Germany’s economy contracted by just under 5 percent in 2020, outperforming most European peers. New waves of infections and associated lockdowns during late-2020 to early 2021 hampered the rebound from the first wave. But forward-looking indicators suggest further growth in exports and a brightening outlook for the services sector, in line with re-opening plans and anticipated pent-up demand.
For the year as a whole, growth of about 3.6 percent is expected. The recovery pae
th, however, is beset with risks, particularly regarding the progress of the pandemic and supply shortages in key industries. Retaining supportive fiscal policy until there is clear evidence of a sustained recovery while also using the fiscal space to lift potential growth over the medium term will be crucial.
The government has extended various COVID-19 measures from 2020, such as grants to firms and an expansion of the short-time work subsidy, while also introducing several new measures to support households and businesses. Maintaining adequate support while the economy is still weak is important to minimize scarring effects. As the recovery firms up, more targeted policies and a focus on facilitating resource re-allocation becomes important.
Over the medium term, it is important that Germany’s fiscal space is used to boost growth potential by investing in physical and human capital, accelerating digitalization, incentivizing innovation, bolstering labor supply, and increasing disposable income for low-income households. Making progress towards these goals would also help with external rebalancing.
A green transition is key to Germany’s recovery program, yet there are opportunities to improve the cost-effectiveness of its climate mitigation measures. Following a constitutional court ruling in May, Germany tightened its greenhouse gas emissions targets aiming for a 65 percent reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2045. Germany could bolster its mitigation program with a better-specified schedule of carbon prices over a longer time horizon, complemented with sector-specific feebates (revenue-neutral tax/subsidy schemes).
Continued government support for green infrastructure and technologies is also essential for the transition and to spur the economic recovery. To mitigate the potential adverse impact of higher carbon prices on households, further relief targeted at lower-income earners can be considered.
Germany’s expanded short-time work subsidy or Kurzarbeit remains important until the recovery takes hold, while groups not covered by Kurzarbeit need to protected by different means. The unprecedented take-up of Kurzarbeit helped keep unemployment in check and supported aggregate demand. However, as the recovery takes hold, normalizing Kurzarbeit parameters becomes essential so as not to inhibit labor reallocation toward growing firms and industries. Job search assistance and appropriate training programs can facilitate workers’ transition into post-pandemic jobs.
For groups not covered by Kurzarbeit, maintaining expanded access to the current basic income program would be beneficial until the job market recovers sustainably. To arrest widening inequality, the government could consider reducing social security contributions on lower incomes, which would also spur hiring and labor supply.
Safeguarding financial stability during the nascent recovery is essential. So far bankruptcies and financial losses have been limited, while bank capital has actually increased since the onset of the pandemic. But bankruptcies may rise as support measures are phased out, warranting continued targeted liquidity and solvency support for viable firms.
Meanwhile, specifying an appropriately gradual timetable for banks to rebuild capital buffers is important to mitigate the risk of curtailed lending when it is most needed. Banks also need to improve their cost structures to address chronic low profitability. Progress has been made in narrowing data gaps that have hampered the full assessment of macro-financial risks. But the buildup of financial vulnerabilities in real estate markets calls for close monitoring and for expanding the macroprudential toolkit to include income-based instruments.
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