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27 February 2013
Consumer climate: German consumers are optimistic
Findings of the GfK Consumer Climate study for Germany for February 2013

Nuremberg, 27 February 2013 – German consumers continue to be optimistic. Economic expectations and willingness to buy have improved further, but income expectations have fallen. Following 5.8 points in February, the overall indicator is forecasting a value of 5.9 points for March 2013.

At present, the media are paying very little attention to the European financial crisis. Players on the financial markets are also peaceful. As a result of this situation, Germans are taking a relatively relaxed view of the future. They are anticipating that the German economy will steadily improve in the coming months. The indicator increased for the second consecutive time. In its wake, willingness to buy also rose slightly in February. In contrast, the strong rise in income expectations of the previous month was partly wiped out. Overall, the upward trend in the consumer climate continued.

Economic expectations: turning point reached

Following a moderate increase in January 2013, the economic outlook once again improved this month. The rise of 8.8 points was in fact greater than the 6.6 point-gain of the previous month. The indicator is currently at -2.5 points and therefore approaching the zero mark, which is the long-term average of the economic mood.

It currently seems that the turning point in economic prospects has been reached. Consumers assume that the economy will not cool down further. While they were still anticipating a slowdown in the fourth quarter of 2012, they now expect Germany to see a moderate recovery in its economic situation.

This increasing optimism is undoubtedly attributable to the stable situation on the labor market. Although unemployment went up slightly in the winter months, according to the Federal Employment Agency, this is entirely due to seasonal effects.

Data from the Federal Statistical Office shows that Germany’s gross domestic product grew by 0.7 percent over 2012 as a whole. Development in the second half of the year was considerably weaker than in the first six months.

It is not just consumers who are currently more optimistic again. Companies are also expecting a clear recovery in the German economy. The Ifo Business Climate Index increased by more than 3 points in February, which is the greatest plus since July 2010.

Income expectations: moderate fall

While economic expectations have been improving, there was a drop in income expectations in February this year. However, with a fall of 4.2 points, the indicator only lost a small share of its considerable growth of almost 15 points in the previous month. At present, the indicator is at a very good level of 31.8 points.

Despite the slight losses at present, consumers have remained extremely optimistic about their further financial development. The stable employment situation and the prospect of salary increases in connection with an improved economic outlook are the principal reasons for the high level of the income expectations indicator.

Inflation is also expected to remain moderate this year, which means that the majority of employees are expecting to have more money in their wallets in real terms too.

Willingness to buy: slight increase

In contrast to income expectations, willingness to buy improved slightly in February, rising 1.7 points to its current level of 37 points. This indicator last recorded a higher value about a year ago in March 2012, when it was at almost 39 points.

Given that consumers continue to be skeptical about the stability of the euro, they are still tending to invest their money in higher value purchases rather than putting it in the bank at historically low interest rates. In addition, the good employment situation is ensuring high planning security for major purchases, in particular. The low saving propensity is also boosting the buying mood.

Consumer climate: improved further

Following 5.8 points in February, the overall indicator is forecasting a value of 5.9 points for March 2013. It is therefore continuing the slight upward trend of the previous month.
The consumer climate has started 2013 well. Despite the difficult international economic situation, German consumers are optimistic about the development of their domestic economy.

The further course of the consumer mood will essentially depend on how the labor market develops this year. In this regard, the outlook that the high level of employment will be maintained is extremely positive. If the financial markets also remain peaceful this year, consumers should not be unsettled. Under these conditions, it is very likely that consumption will continue to be a major pillar of the economy in 2013.

In its recently published forecast, GfK predicted that private spending will rise by 1 percent in real terms this year. Assuming 0.8 percent growth in GDP, as is forecast for the year at the moment, consumption will make an above-average contribution to economic development.

These findings are extracts from the “GfK Consumer Climate MAXX survey”, which is based on around 2,000 consumer interviews conducted each month on behalf of the EU Commission. The report contains charts, forecasts and a detailed commentary regarding the indicators. In addition, the report includes information on proposed consumer spending in 20 different areas of the consumer goods and services markets. The GfK Consumer Climate survey has been conducted since 1980.

The next publication date is Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Further information: Rolf Bürkl, tel. +49 911 395-3056

About GfK

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