German Bundesbankers expect a gradual slowdown of the economy as a result of weaker global growth, higher oil prices and a stronger euro. They are not concerned about any direct fallout from the US mortgage crisis, writes Ralph Atkins in the Financial Times.
The article's headline is "Schadenfreude stirs in resilient Germany," but Atkins only claims once that "across Germany, a sense of schadenfreude has even started to emerge." His only indication is that "Peer Steinbrück, finance minister, has long maintained that a run on a bank, as seen with Northern Rock in the UK, would not happen in Germany." Well, many Germans are scared about their jobs and worry about poverty in their later retirement. Many are so concerned about the financial markets that they do not invest their savings, but keep them on a bank account with low interest, which is bad for retirement plans and for the economy. That's why the finance minister tries to reassure the public. That's not Schadenfreude. Perhaps the folks at the Financial Times felt compelled to use a German word in their headline. Next time write "Blitzkrieg" or "Kindergarten" or address people as "Herr Steinbrück" rather than "Mr. Steinbrück" (a weird habit of some).
Otherwise the article is good and describes what has been going on:
Germany's recent economic history has been the mirror image of the US's. Instead of enjoying a consumer and housing boom over the past decade, Germany has experienced a period of painful adjustment to the costs of reunification in the early 1990s and the effects of globalisation on a high-wage economy. By the time the global financial crisis struck, extensive private-sector restructuring had restored cost competitiveness, while consumers had retrenched financially - with house prices flat or even falling. The result was an economy driven not by consumer spending but by its powerful export motor, with industry producing high-quality goods that appear relatively insensitive to the higher exchange rate.
Atkins ends with an FT typical conclusion:
I believe "steadier but lower" is the very much preferred model in economic (and political) matters over here.
But that is not the same as saying Germany has the better long-term prospects. Whereas the US's financial system and more flexible labour markets appear to booms and busts, Germany's economic growth rates traditionally remain steadier - but lower.