German economy passed over the worst: Ministry

German economy passed over the worst: Ministry

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
German economy passed over the worst: Ministry

Employees viewing steel tapping at the ArcelorMittal steel factory in Hamburg, Germany. EPA photo

Germany’s economy, the biggest in Europe, should see brighter days ahead after tumbling in the fourth quarter of last year, the economy ministry said earlier today in its regular monthly report.

“The prospects for the German economy are gradually improving. Forward-looking indicators point to a possible end to the current weak phase,” the report said.

“The low point of the global economic weakness appears to be already past,” the ministry added, noting also that the situation on the international financial markets had also calmed considerably.

Broadly speaking, the German economy has weathered the eurozone debt crisis better than many of its neighbours.

But with a large part of its all-important exports going to fellow eurozone countries, Germany has not been immune to the turbulence and gross domestic product expanded by a mere 0.7 percent last year after 3.0 percent in 2011.And the economy seemed to have slammed abruptly into reverse in the fourth quarter of the year, as officials estimate a contraction of 0.5 percent, raising fears Europe’s powerhouse could slip into recession.

The economy ministry acknowledged that “weak construction and industrial activity indicate a drop in total economic activity in the final quarter of 2012” but stressed this low point should be “quickly overcome.” Official figures for the fourth quarter are due to be published on Feb. 14.

In recent weeks, confidence indicators have pointed to a recovery, notably the closely watched Ifo business sentiment index, which rose to a seven-month high in January.Consumer confidence also rose while the labour market fell to a four-month low on a seasonally adjusted basis.