Business cycle forecast 2008: German upswing takes a break
Wirtschaft im Wandel,
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.
East German Economy: Demand Push Stronger than Structural Deficiencies
Wirtschaft im Wandel,
In 2006, growth of production was surprisingly strong in Eastern Germany. The structural deficiencies there would have suggested a slower pace. In particular, linkages with national and international business cycles have been underestimated. To a large part, the reason why output grew by 3 per cent did not come from Eastern Germany itself, but from the Old Länder and from abroad. In the New Länder, the strong upward swing in investment activity stimulated the economy. However, owing to a small increase in total income of private households, their purchasing power lagged behind.
The improved ability of East German firms to absorb cyclical impulses from exports and from Germany’s general investment activity proved to be a crucial factor. In particular, the endowment of workplaces with modern production facilities as well as the continued reduction in the disadvantages with respect to cost-competitiveness in the tradable goods sector were beneficial. The labour cost advantage compared to West German competitors increased further while the disadvantage compared to those from Central and Eastern Europe decreased.
Benefiting from these factors, economic activity in Eastern Germany will grow faster than in the Old Länder as long as the upswing in Germany and abroad remains strong. In 2007 and 2008, investments – especially in equipment – and exports will be the driving forces again. For exports, the strongly expanding markets in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Russia will gain in importance. As income and employment prospects improve, private consumption will support the growth in production. Registered unemployment should decrease below the 1-million threshold.
Manufacturing will remain the primary force of the upswing; its advantages in production costs will not vanish as long as, even in presence of scarcity of skilled labour, salaries and wages do not increase more than in Western Germany. In the wake of robust economic growth, the New Länder will make further progress in catching up with respect to production and income.
Companies will regain support from the banking industry. Yet, investment capital still stems from public funding programmes to a non-negligible extent. In the medium run, access to credit will ease as a result of further improvements in the firms’ net worth position. However, dependency on internal funds remains high and exposes companies to comparatively strong cyclical risks. In an economic downturn, the structural deficiencies of the East German economy will impair economic expansion.
Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
This paper examines how personal bankruptcy and bankruptcy exemptions affect the supply and demand for credit. While generous state-level bankruptcy exemptions are probably viewed by most policy-makers as benefiting less-well-off borrowers, our results using data from the 1983 Survey of Consumer Finances suggest that they increase the amount of credit held by high-asset households and reduce the availability and amount of credit to low-asset households, conditioning on observable characteristics. Thus, bankruptcy exemptions redistribute credit toward borrowers with high assets. Interest rates on automobile loans for low-asset households also appear to be higher in high exemption states.