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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Green Shoots In Germany and Estonia?

By Edward Hugh: Barcelona

Well, I am busying myself this morning scratching around looking for green shoots in Turkey. But even as I was digging for these I couldn't help notice this coming in over the radar from Germany, courtesy of Bloomberg:

German exports fell more than economists forecast in April as the global crisis restrained demand, keeping Europe’s largest economy mired in a recession. Sales abroad, adjusted for working days and seasonal changes, fell 4.8 percent from March, when they rose a revised 0.3 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists expected a 0.1 percent decline in April, according to the median of 10 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.
So German exports have not touched bottom yet - they are still falling. Since the German economy is export dependent, then this implies the obvious, the German economy is still contracting. I don't think anyone ever doubted this, but looking at the way some of the material has been presented recently, it wasn't always clear.

Indeed year on year, exports fell by 22.9%, the fastest rate so far, although since these annual stats are not working day corrected I wouldn't read too much into that just yet, since you really do need to average across March and April due to the Easter impact.

Another country where rather unsurprisingly we aren't seeing too many green shoots at the moment is Estonia, and only today the statistics office reported that exports decreased by 38% and imports by 41% (year on year) in April.

As a result the Estonian trade deficit rose for the second month running, and hit 1.8 billion kroons. So what we are seeing here is a distinct move in the wrong direction, on both counts.

We also learnt from the Estonian stats office today that GDP contracted by 15.1% (year on year) in the first three months of this year - a figure which was revised down from the earlier flash estimate of 15.6%.

Compared to the 4th quarter of last year, seasonally and working-day adjusted GDP decreased by 6.1% (more on all this in another post).

Finally on the green shoots front for today, we could note that Hungary's industrial production plummeted in April by 25.3% (year on year) according to working day adjusted data released by the stats office. This compares with a year on year contraction of 19.6% in March.

Month on month there was seasonally and working day adjusted drop of 5.1% in April, following 4.5% growth in March. So again, output is still falling, and no bottom has been reached.

This latest Hungarian data is particularly unpalatable following a number of reports which had been left open the possibility that the downturn in the Hungarian economy had ground to a halt, or at least staretd to decelerate. If industrial output shows similar weakness in other East European countries then this does not augur well for future German and eurozone output, since Hungary plays a significant role in the early stages of the European manufacturing production chain.