German industrial production dropped more than economists predicted in May, adding to signs that Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is weakening a recovery in the region’s largest economy.
Production fell 1 percent from April, when it gained a revised 2 percent, the Economy Ministry in Berlin said today. That’s the first decline since January. Economists forecast a drop of 0.5 percent, according to the median of 38 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. From a year earlier, production decreased 1 percent when adjusted for working days.
German exports unexpectedly fell in May, the Federal Statistics Office said today, and factory orders dropped for a second month as the 17-nation euro region struggles to emerge from the longest recession since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. Still, German unemployment declined in June while confidence among entrepreneurs and investors improved.
“Recent indicators point to some minor problems in Germany,” said Andreas Moeller, an economist at WGZ Bank in Dusseldorf. “But compared with the rest of the euro area, the economy is still solid and will grow throughout this year.”
German gross domestic product increased 0.1 percent in the first quarter after a 0.7 percent contraction in the final three months of 2012. The Bundesbank said last month that economic growth may have increased “markedly” in the second quarter, while warning of signs of a slowdown later this year.
German manufacturing output fell 0.7 percent in May, with production of investment goods down 2.3 percent, today’s report showed. Construction slumped 2.6 percent, while energy output dropped 1.5 percent.
Even though production weakened “somewhat,” the Economy Ministry said in the statement, “the recovery of the industrial sector should continue in a slightly damped fashion.”
The truck business of Daimler AG, the world’s biggest maker of the vehicles, needs to accelerate spending cuts and deliveries to achieve this year’s earnings goal, Wolfgang Bernhard, the head of the division, said on July 1.
Germany’s VDMA machine makers’ association cut its 2013 production forecast on July 4 to a contraction of 1 percent from expected growth of 2 percent.
The euro-area economy, Germany’s biggest export market, shrank in the six quarters through March and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said last week that the risks to the outlook are to the downside. He gave what he called “unprecedented” forward guidance that interest rates will stay low for an extended period of time.
Still, Draghi reaffirmed his prediction for a recovery at a subdued pace later this year. The ECB expects the 17-nation economy to contract 0.6 percent in 2013 before expanding 1.1 percent in 2014.
Beiersdorf AG, the Hamburg-based maker of Nivea skin cream, reported first-quarter profit on May 2 that exceeded estimates as higher emerging-market sales countered a drop in western Europe.
“All in all, the German economy is doing quite well,” said Stefan Muetze, an economist at Helaba in Frankfurt. “We are going through a little weakness right now, but no serious trouble is in sight.”
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