Business cycle forecast 2008: German upswing takes a break
Economic growth in the industrial countries will be much more muted in 2008 than in the past year. One cause is the prolonged oil price hike during 2007. The second and more important cause is the intensification of tensions on world financial markets. Due to problems in the financial sector, credit expansion will slow next year in the euro area as well as in the US. This will dampen demand in the real economy. A significant downswing in the industrial countries, however, is not the most likely scenario: in the US, expansive economic policy and a weak dollar that gives production in the US a competitive edge will prevent the economy from sliding into recession. In the euro area, high profitability of firms and structural improvements in the working of labour markets will help the economy cope with the stronger euro and with higher costs of external financing due to the turmoil in the financial sector. In Germany, the upswing has still not reached the demand of private households. The main reason is that real wages were stagnating in 2007 and will not rise by much in 2008, since inflation has accelerated considerably at the end of last year. In addition, weaker dynamics of external demand will dampen export growth. This and the end of tax incentives for investment at the end of 2007 will dampen investment activity. All in all, the economy will slow down in the first half of 2008. However, chances are good that the upswing will only have taken a break: when the dampening external shocks have ceased, the driving powers of the upswing will prevail; dynamic employment growth is a reflection of the strong confidence of firms. A major risk for employment and for the German economy in general is, however, the possibility that the policy concerning the labour markets changes course; bad omens are the recent the introduction of minimum wages for postal services and the announced extension of unemployment benefits for persons older than 50.