The German Economy Caves, And Eurozone Bailouts Take On New Dimension
Last year, German exports rode to a new record, jobs were being created in massive numbers, real wages rose, housing and real estate boomed, the federal budget was nearly balanced, and consumers felt good and spent money. There were moments in 2012 that made people dream of a repeat performance—despite the havoc that the Eurozone debt crisis has been wreaking.
Whatever was happening, Germany would be able to make up for declining exports to the Eurozone with strong exports to Asia and the US. Internal demand would remain solid. And this illusion of durable economic strength and fiscal virtue has tainted the discussion about saving the euro, bailing out debt-sinner countries in return for austerity measures, and keeping the European Central Bank in check.
But now the crisis has moved from Germany’s front yard to its doorstep and is about to enter its living room. Beer sales, for example. That the German Federal Statistical Office tracks them shows just how crucial a staple beer is. Alas, beer sales to customers in Germany dropped 2.3% in the first half over the same period last year, and ominously, exports dropped 2.9% [for the worldwide beer phenomenon, beer consumption per capita, and where the growth really is, read.... Beer, A Reflection Of The World Economy?]
Auto sales got clobbered in July, dropping by 5% from July last year, and by 16.5% from June, knocking year-to-date sales, which had been holding up well, into the red (-0.1%). Auto sales have been a fiasco in the Eurozone for a while. In Greece, where they’d been plummeting for years, they plummeted again in the first half, by 41.3%! In Italy, by 19.7%, in France by 14.4%, in Belgium by 12.7%. But until July, Germany had been spared. No more. Of the big brands, only Audi (Volkswagen) was up (+14.3%). The others got hammered: Opel (GM) -18.6%, BMW, Mini -17.9 %, Mercedes -14.6 %, and Ford -4.4%. Even VW, market-share leader and on a phenomenal worldwide roll, was down 1.5%.